A tight foreskin is actually normal in non-circumcised boys under six, and some men go through their whole lives with the condition and don’t feel it’s a particular problem. But for others it can be painful and embarrassing. So what exactly does it mean, and what treatments are available?
The medical name for a tight foreskin is phimosis, and it means that the foreskin – the flesh at the tip of the penis – cannot be pulled be back to reveal the head of the penis (the glans). There are degrees of tightness, and in some boys the foreskin may go back a little, while in others it’s so tight it makes going to the loo painful.
In most boys, by ten years old the foreskin is naturally loose enough to be pulled back and even if, by this stage, it is not, the condition will often pass as boys grow up. But if it doesn’t, it can carry on making urination painful and make the area liable to infection.
Don’t let your son try and pull the foreskin back himself (or do it for him) as this can cause damage to the penis, and cause the foreskin itself to get stuck – a very painful condition called paraphimosis which needs urgent medical treatment.
Instead, let your doctor have a look. If necessary he can prescribe an ointment which is applied to the end of the penis to loosen the foreskin. Some men with the condition also do daily stretching exercises which are designed to ease the foreskin back from the tip of the penis over a period of weeks or months.
Apart from any pain, a tight foreskin can mean an increased likelihood of infection – one in 25 uncircumcised boys experience a condition called balanitis, which means the end of the penis and the tip of the foreskin become red and sore. Though circumcision is usually done when boys are babies, it can be performed on older children and even adult men under a general anaesthetic, and is one way of dealing with a tight foreskin.
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