What is Balanitis?

Balanitis is the inflammation of the foreskin and head of the penis. The head of the penis is also called the glans. Since balanitis is associated with infection, this condition also goes by the name, balanitis infection. While balanitis can be painful and uncomfortable, it is typically not serious.

Types of Balanitis

There are several different types of balanitis. Some of the types are more common and some are rare. Certain types affect men based on other existing conditions or age.

The three types of balanitis:

  • Zoon’s balanitis is the most common type. It causes redness and pain in the penis head.
  • Circinate balanitis is more likely to occur in men with reactive arthritis. Infection causes reactive arthritis. If you experience this type of balanitis, sores will develop on the head of your penis.
  • Pseudoepitheliomatous keratotic and micaceous balanitis is the rarest type and only impacts men over 60. It causes scaly warts to grow on the tip of the penis.


If you develop balanitis, you are likely to experience a range of symptoms. Swelling and redness of the foreskin may indicate balanitis.

Other common balanitis symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Sores
  • Tightened foreskin
  • Discharge
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Itchiness
  • Pain
  • Bleeding

You might also experience pain while urinating and the appearance of white, shiny skin on your penis.


Balanitis is inflammation from infections, skincare conditions, or improper hygiene. Infections can develop from bacteria or yeast thriving in moisture trapped under the foreskin. Candida yeast is a common cause of infection. If your condition is caused by candida, you may hear your doctor use the term “candida balanitis.”

Additional balanitis causes are:

  • Damage to the head of the penis or foreskin.
  • Not completely rinsing soap off your penis.
  • Cleaning your penis with scented soaps.
  • Washing your penis with a bar of soap that dries out your skin.
  • Apply scented lotions or sprays to your penis.
  • Certain laxatives, sleeping pills, antibiotics, and painkillers can lead to balanitis.

Risk Factors

There are several known risk factors for balanitis or balanitis infection.

Balanitis risk factors:

  • Sexually transmitted infections.
  • Diabetes that is not effectively managed.
  • Suffering from reactive arthritis.


Your doctor will perform a routine medical exam and review your medical and family history. During the exam, your doctor will likely diagnose balanitis based on observable physical symptoms. Depending on your symptoms and type of balanitis, your doctor may perform a balanitis test to confirm a balanitis diagnosis.

Types of balanitis tests:

  • Urine – Your doctor will look for bacteria that may have caused your balanitis.
  • Swab – Your doctor may use a swab test to examine discharge for bacteria.
  • Blood – Your doctor may check for sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Serum glucose – This test helps your doctor check for diabetes.
  • Biopsy – Your doctor will collect and examine a small sample of tissue from your penis. This allows your doctor to look for the signs of disease.


There are various treatments available based on your symptoms, your specific type of balanitis, and the cause of your condition. Most of the time, your doctor will prescribe medications to reduce and prevent balanitis infection, swelling and soreness. However, in some rare and serious cases, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Balanitis treatment might involve:

  • Antibiotics – Antibiotics treat bacteria in a pill or cream form.
  • Antifungal cream – Antifungal creams can treat candida yeast.
  • Steroid creams – Steroid creams can help alleviate skin disease or an allergic reaction that may have caused balanitis.
  • Sitz Bath – A sitz bath is a warm bath that you sit in to reduce swelling in your penis.
  • Circumcision – Circumcision is surgery to remove part or all of your foreskin. Typically, circumcision is reserved for balanitis that does not respond to other treatments.


Early assessment, diagnosis, and treatment can help prevent balanitis complications.

Common complications of balanitis and balanitis infection:

  • Scarring in the opening of the penis.
  • Pain or discomfort when urinating.
  • Retaining urine in your bladder.
  • Painful foreskin retraction.
  • Insufficient blood supply to the penis.
  • Extreme rash or itching.
  • Phimosis, where your foreskin will not retract.

If you or one of your loved ones experience any of the symptoms of balanitis, a urology specialist at Baptist Health is here to help.

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