Several problems involving the penis can arise in people who are not circumcised. However, it is possible to avoid most of these issues by practicing good hygiene and safe sex.

The foreskin is a thin layer of skin covering the head of the penis. Circumcision is a surgical procedure to remove the foreskin. Some people undergo the procedure for religious or cultural reasons, but it can also be a way to reduce health risks.

People who are not circumcised and do not take proper care of their foreskin can experience some health-related complications. Keep reading to learn more about them.

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Good hygiene and safe sex may help prevent problems in people with an uncircumcised penis.

Phimosis is where the foreskin is too tight around the penis, which prevents it from pulling back over the head of the penis.

The condition usually affects children and will improve as the foreskin loosens with age. In adults, it may result from a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It does not usually cause any symptoms or require medical attention.

However, in some cases, it might cause:

  • pain and tenderness around the tip of the penis
  • swelling of the penis
  • bleeding
  • scarring around the penis tip
  • difficulty controlling urination
  • infections

If phimosis is causing symptoms, a doctor will advise cleaning the area with lukewarm water daily. It is best to avoid using soaps or shampoos.

If there is inflammation, a doctor may also prescribe corticosteroid creams or ointments.

Paraphimosis occurs when the foreskin becomes stuck below the head and cannot pull back over the penis. The skin can become tight around the penis shaft, causing swelling and discomfort.

Paraphimosis can also cause fluid to build up around the area, worsening the swelling. Without treatment, paraphimosis can prevent blood from reaching the tip of the penis.

It is necessary to seek emergency medical attention for paraphimosis to avoid complications.

Doctors may use a local anesthetic to ease pain in the area. They can usually help restore the foreskin manually. However, in severe cases, they may have to make a small cut to loosen the skin.

Without regular cleaning of the penis, bacteria can build up on the foreskin and cause infections. Infections can also occur if there is a small cut or sore on the foreskin, as a break in the skin can allow microbes to enter.

Balanitis is an inflammation of the head of the penis, and it is a common result of an infection that affects the foreskin. About 3–11% of men will experience balanitis at some point in their lifetime.

The symptoms of balanitis can include:

  • a sore and itchy penis
  • swelling of the penis
  • pain during urination
  • discharge under the foreskin that is thicker than normal with a foul smell

Antibiotic medications are the best way to treat bacterial infections of the penis, whereas antifungal medications will be necessary in the case of a fungal infection. Both types of treatment will typically be in the form of creams or ointments that a person applies directly to the penis.

As poor hygiene is the primary cause of balanitis, it is important to clean the area regularly.

Read more about some possible infections of the penis here.

As the foreskin hangs over the penis head, it may sustain an injury. For example, the foreskin can catch in the zipper of jeans and trousers.

These injuries can damage the skin and possibly the urethral meatus, which is the tube inside the penis tip. Injury to the urethral meatus can lead to problems with urination. This type of injury can also be very painful.

If a zipper injury occurs, it is best to see a doctor immediately for treatment. Over-the-counter pain relievers will help with the pain. A doctor may also give the person a local anesthetic.

Although yeast infections are more common in females, they can affect males under or around the foreskin. Various types of fungi, including Candida albicans, cause yeast infections.

Yeast infections can sometimes occur without any symptoms, but in many cases, they cause itchiness, soreness, and swelling around the penis. Rashes and papules can also develop in the area.

Several medications are available for treating a yeast infection, such as clotrimazole (Canesten) and econazole nitrate (Spectazole). A doctor will prescribe these as a cream or ointment to apply directly to the penis.

Read more about yeast infection in males here.

According to the findings of a 2017 study, circumcised people have a lower risk of sexually transmitted infections than uncircumcised people. The research suggests that circumcision can decrease the risk of:

  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • genital herpes simplex
  • trichomoniasis
  • mycoplasma
  • syphilis
  • chancroid
  • HIV

To reduce the risk of these infections, it is important to practice safer sex by using condoms. Having fewer sexual partners may also lower the risk of infection.

Read more about the signs and symptoms of STIs in males here.

Many people with an uncircumcised penis experience no problems as a result. Most of the complications that arise from having an uncircumcised penis are avoidable through practicing good hygiene.

Some tips include:

  • cleaning under the foreskin every day with warm water
  • avoiding the use of most cleaning products in the area, including soap or body wash
  • changing underwear regularly
  • avoiding the use of talc or deodorant on the penis

Regardless of whether or not they have undergone circumcision, people should always practice safe sex to lower the risk of STIs.