Posthitis: Foreskin inflammation of the penis with redness and pain

The foreskin is a thin layer of skin that covers the head of the penis. Posthitis is the medical term for inflammation of the foreskin of the penis. Sometimes fungi or bacteria cause this condition, but other causes are also known, such as irritants from the environment. Swelling and redness of the skin are some signs of foreskin inflammation. The doctor identifies the underlying cause and tailors his treatment accordingly. For example, the patient must use medication or avoid irritants. Usually this condition is not serious, but occasionally complications arise. Good hygiene and circumcision prevent an inflamed foreskin.

  • Causes of inflammation of foreskin
  • Infectious
  • Non-infectious
  • Risk factors
  • Symptoms: Pain, swelling and redness of penis
  • Diagnosis and examinations
  • Treatment of posthitis
  • Good hygiene
  • Infectious
  • Non-infectious
  • Complications of inflamed foreskin
  • Prevention of foreskin inflammation
  • Good hygiene
  • Circumcision


Causes of inflammation of foreskin


Posthitis is sometimes the result of an infection by bacteria or fungi. Common causative organisms include candida, chlamydia and gonorrhea.


Sometimes the foreskin inflammation is also the result of non-infectious causes. Poor hygiene may lead to the inflammation and swelling of the foreskin. Allergies are also known as a possible cause of foreskin inflammation. The man then reacts allergically to a hygiene product or latex condoms. Furthermore, some skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and contact dermatitis lead to posthitis.

Risk factors

A common risk factor is diabetes mellitus.

Symptoms: Pain, swelling and redness of penis

In posthitis, the inflammation of the foreskin causes discomfort, tenderness or pain. This causes a man to experience swelling, redness and/or itching of the skin. This may also be accompanied by a foul-smelling discharge, pain during urination and pain during ejaculation.

Diagnosis and examinations

The doctor must properly determine the cause before initiating treatment. He questions the patient about the possible use of irritating substances. A physical examination is then necessary. He then determines whether there is posthitis, but balanoposthitis or another form of penile inflammation also sometimes occur and have similar symptoms. Occasionally a smear is necessary to determine the cause of the inflammation. The doctor uses a long cotton swab and gently rubs it around the foreskin. If a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is suspected to have caused posthitis, he inserts a cotton swab into the penile opening and gently rubs it over the area. Some men may have a urinalysis test.

Treatment of posthitis

Treatment depends on the underlying cause.

Good hygiene

Good hygiene, such as keeping the area dry and clean, is essential to prevent a recurrence. The man can keep the area clean by washing the penis twice a day with a mild saline solution. It is recommended not to wash the penis excessively and certainly not with soap, as this may lead to contact dermatitis and further problems.


Antibiotics and antifungals treat the infection. If the infection is transmitted sexually, it is important that sexual partners are informed and treated. If there is an allergic reaction, the doctor prescribes antihistamines. Steroid ointments can be used when a skin condition has resulted in posthitis.


If contact dermatitis is the basis of the inflammation of the foreskin of the penis, the patient should discontinue the use of perfumed soaps, latex and other external irritants. Sometimes the man must temporarily avoid sexual intercourse to avoid further friction and irritation of the foreskin. Finally, a man must keep his blood sugar levels under control if he has diabetes.

Complications of inflamed foreskin

Posthitis may lead to phimosis. This indicates a foreskin that is too tight, making it difficult to pull it back over the glans. Posthitis also sometimes results in superficial ulcerations and diseases of the inguinal lymph nodes (of the groin).

Prevention of foreskin inflammation

Good hygiene

Regularly cleaning the glans with a mild soap is generally sufficient to prevent infection and inflammation of the foreskin. Complete retraction of the foreskin is not always possible in boys younger than approximately ten years of age. For some boys, complete retraction of the foreskin is not possible until the late teenage years, when they can clean it.


In an uncircumcised man, posthitis and balanitis (inflammation of the glans, the round head of the penis) most often occur together as balanoposthitis (inflammation of both the glans and the foreskin). Consequently, circumcision prevents balanoposthitis because without a foreskin, foreskin inflammation cannot occur.

read more

  • Balanitis and balanoposthitis: Inflammation of the glans and foreskin
  • Circumcision in men: The operation
  • Penis Pain: Causes of Penis Pain (Sore Penis)
  • Penile discharge: Discharge of fluid from penis
  • Phimosis: Too tight foreskin of the penis, often with inflammation
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