By Marilyn Milos, RN
Sometimes the retractable foreskin of an adult male will close down; this condition is called “pathological phimosis.” Too often, when men who have developed pathological phimosis consult with a urologist or other physician, they are told that the only cure is circumcision. This is incorrect in most cases.
The word phimosis means muzzling, to indicate that the glans (head of the penis) is muzzled by the foreskin. At birth, most babies have “physiological phimosis,” a normal condition because the glans and foreskin have not yet separated. The foreskin separates from the glans over time, usually by adolescence.
But even after the foreskin becomes mobile and retractable, it is possible that a man will one day begin to have trouble retracting it, and be diagnosed with pathological phimosis.
Here are a few possible causes for pathological phimosis, along with cures that you can pursue in order to avoid the loss of your foreskin.
1. Yeast imbalance. Exposure to soap, shampoos, and chlorinated water in swimming pools or hot tubs can kill normal, beneficial bacteria on the foreskin. This can result in yeast overgrowth, inflammation, itching, and stinging with urination; it can also make the foreskin close down. A yeast imbalance can be corrected by eliminating soap and shampoo, or by using a barrier cream on the foreskin before swimming. To help the healing process. Liquid Acidophilus culture purchased from the health food store or pharmacy can also be applied to the foreskin by pouring some of the liquid into the palm of the hand, dipping the foreskin into the solution, and letting it drip dry; do this six times a day for 3 or 4 days.
2. Vigorous sexual activity. Sometimes the foreskin will close down if a male has been too vigorous sexually, which can cause small tears in the foreskin. The opening will become tight while the tissue heals. Time and gentleness are the cure for this.
3. “Lichen sclerosus” (formerly called “BXO”), is another condition that can cause the foreskin to become too tight. Lichen sclerosus is characterized by the presence of small, shiny, and smooth white patches on the foreskin. These patches may become larger, and the skin may become itchy, thin, and wrinkled, and may tear easily and bleed. A dermatologist can diagnose lichen sclerosus, which is commonly treated with two creams, Clotrimazole and hydrocortisone, both available over the counter at your local pharmacy, or by prescription, depending upon the desired strength.
If none of these conditions is present, and your foreskin is simply too tight for comfortable retraction, before considering circumcision, ask your urologist about a Y-V- or Z-plasty. These are surgical techniques in which small slits are cut in the foreskin, and then sewn together in a way that widens the opening. This surgery saves the foreskin and its specialized nerve endings that allow for full sexual sensations and enjoyment.
As you can see, finding the reason for your phimosis is a critical step to solving the problem and avoiding the loss of your foreskin.
If you have questions not covered here about problems with your foreskin, you may write to us at: [email protected].