There are many potential causes of a swollen penis, but most cases are not a cause for concern. However, in rare cases, people may need immediate medical treatment.
A swollen penis may make it difficult to urinate or have sex. The swelling may accompany other symptoms, such as redness, irritation, itching, or discharge. It is important to note these signs to determine the underlying cause.
The penis consists of the following parts:
- The tip, head, or glans: This is where the urethra is, and where semen and urine come out.
- The shaft: Generally, the longest portion of the penis that extends from the tip to where it connects to the lower abdomen.
- Foreskin: A retractable flap of skin that covers and protects the head of the penis. Some people may surgically remove the foreskin via circumcision.
- Frenulum: Where the foreskin meets the underside of the penis.
Understanding penis anatomy may also help identify the cause of the swelling.
This article discusses potential explanations of penile swelling, treatments, and when to see a doctor.
There are many potential causes for a swollen penis, ranging from accidental damage to more serious conditions that can develop over time.
Sometimes, someone may experience an allergic reaction to certain creams or lotions they use on the penis, causing painful swelling.
They could also be allergic to the latex found in some condoms. Studies estimate that as many as
Treatment: If a person is allergic to creams or latex, it is best to avoid the offending product. For mild allergies, the reaction may ease by itself, or people may use over-the-counter antihistamines. For severe allergies, epinephrine may be necessary to prevent anaphylaxis.
People may accidentally injure their penis during sexual activity, usually due to excessive force, a lack of lubrication, or an accidental thrust in the wrong place. Even though there is no bone in the penis, it can experience something urologists refer to as a “fracture.”
For example, a person may experience penile trauma from forceful thrusting. Particularly if the penis exits their partner, then it does not enter again smoothly. The force may cause it to bend sharply despite the erection. This can be painful, and a popping sound often accompanies the pain.
Treatment: A penile fracture is a medical emergency, and a person should see a doctor immediately if they experience this. Treatment will usually involve surgery. A doctor may also prescribe antibiotics and pain medication to help the healing process.
Balanitis is irritation of the glans penis. Studies suggest it affects approximately
- redness and swelling
- pain or tenderness at the head of the penis
- discharge from the penis
There are many underlying causes of balanitis, including:
- thrush (yeast)
- poor hygiene
- a bacterial infection
- a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as gonorrhea or chlamydia
- skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, lichen sclerosus, or balanitis xerotica obliterans
Treatment: A doctor may prescribe a cream, ointment, or antibiotics. If balanitis commonly reoccurs, a doctor may consider circumcision.
Priapism is a disorder where the penis maintains a prolonged erection without sexual stimulation. This condition needs prompt evaluation by a medical professional and may require
Treatment: Treatment for priapism may vary depending on the underlying cause. In some cases, a doctor may drain the old blood from the penis, or inject the penis with medications to fix the blood flow problem.
In more severe cases, doctors may consider surgery or fitting a shunt. The longer a person experiences these symptoms, the higher the risk of a poorer outcome.
Phimosis is where the foreskin is too tight, making it impossible to pull it down over the head of the penis.
Although normal in babies and toddlers, the foreskin usually separates from the glans naturally when children reach 2–6 years. Phimosis can arise as a complication of balanitis if the foreskin sticks to the inflamed and swollen glans penis.
Treatment: People can usually treat phimosis with good hygiene, creams, and ointments. A doctor may recommend using steroid creams, antibiotics, and gently retracting the foreskin after a bath or shower. If it reoccurs, a doctor may suggest a circumcision. Alternatively, a doctor may make an incision known as a ‘dorsal slit’ to widen the foreskin.
Paraphimosis is a condition where a person pulls their foreskin back and cannot return it to the original position over the tip of the penis. This causes the foreskin to gather like a tight rubber band, and may slow or stop blood flow to the tip.
Treatment: Potential options include applying a local anesthetic gel to the penis, to reduce pain and inflammation, then pressing on the glans while pushing the foreskin forward.
If the foreskin does not return to its original position, another treatment option is for a surgeon to cut the foreskin to release it. In extreme cases, an urgent circumcision may be necessary.
Peyronie’s disease is a disorder in which scar tissue forms under the skin of the penis. Symptoms include:
- a bent or curved penis
- hard lumps
- painful erections
- soft erections
- having trouble with sex because of a bent or curved penis
According to the
Treatment: Nonsurgical treatments for this condition include injections, oral medicines, and medical therapies. For more serious cases, surgery may be necessary.
A person can try several home treatments to reduce the symptoms of a swollen penis. Their effectiveness will depend on the underlying cause.
- Abstinence: People can avoid sexual intercourse and masturbation until the pain goes away, as such activity could worsen symptoms.
- Hygiene: A person can stop the use of heavily-perfumed hygiene products, such as bubble bath lotion or harsh soaps. They can instead opt for a mild or non-perfumed soap to reduce the risk of skin irritation.
- Ice pack: Ice packs can relieve swelling, but a person should not place it directly on the skin. Instead, they can wrap a bag of frozen vegetables in a clean towel and gently place this on the swollen area.
Usually, washing the penis and the inside of the foreskin with warm water is all it takes to help prevent a tight foreskin and any resulting swelling. People can use soap, but this should be gentle and perfume-free.
Someone who practices safer sex can reduce the likelihood of an STI, which can cause a swollen penis. Also, during sexual intercourse, people should be gentle and ensure there is sufficient lubrication.
People should see a doctor as soon as a penis injury occurs, or if they experience an erection that lasts longer than 4 hours. Most of the time, a swollen penis will resolve itself. However, complications of this condition can result in severe injury.
There are many reasons for a swollen penis, and most of them are easily treatable. However, proper diagnosis is important to ensure a person gets the appropriate medical care as soon as possible.