What is phimosis and why should parents learn about it? In this article, we take a look at what phimosis is, what causes phimosis, symptoms and possible cures.

What is phimosis?

Phimosis is medically defined as a condition in which the foreskin of the penis is too tight that it can’t be pulled back over the head or glans. Phimosis is common in uncircumcised babies and toddlers since their foreskin is still attached to the glans during the first few years of life.

Phimosis in baby’s and toddlers

At the age of one, it’s estimated that 50% of boys can already retract that foreskin while 90% of three-year olds will be able to do the same. Some boys may take longer, but the foreskin should eventually detach at a later stage. Parents should know that you should never force the foreskin to retract, as it will be both painful and damaging. If you have any concerns, you should always seek the advice of a trained and qualified medical professional.

How does it effect teenagers?

Phimosis only occurs in low percentage of boys between 13 and 18 years old. This condition becomes a problem when symptoms like soreness, redness, and swelling are experienced. In adults or sexually active teenager, however, phimosis could be a sign of an underlying sexually transmitted infection or other health conditions.

What causes phimosis?

Phimosis can be caused by several factors including underlying infections and skin conditions. If your boy has already had circumcision and you think this is a possible cause, it’s recommended that you seek medical attention.

In younger boys, some of the most common causes include:

In adult males, causes include:

  • Underlying sexually transmitted infection
  • Psoriasis where the skin becomes flaky, red and crusty
  • Lichen sclerosus or the condition where scarring on the foreskin caused by urinary irritation results to phimosis
  • Eczema or the long-term skin problem that cause itchiness, redness, dryness and cracking of the skin

What are the symptoms of phimosis?

Phimosis could be asymptomatic during its early stages. But the first symptoms that patients usually experience are redness, soreness and swelling. Later on, there might be difficulty urinating because of how the tight foreskin interferes with the normal passage of urine. In worse cases, a patient may become incapable of emptying his bladder fully.

Eventually, phimosis could lead to the inflammation of the penis called balanitis or the inflammation of both the foreskin and glans called balanoposthitis. Phimosis can also lead to painful sex or even a complete lack of sensation due to the tightened skin.

How is phimosis diagnosed?

While some cases of phimosis could be corrected without any treatment, especially in younger boys, adult males usually need to seek treatment to address the problem before it gets worse. A doctor will start by looking at the medical history of the patient to see if there were previous penile infections or injuries that could lead to the condition.

The doctor may also order urine and swab tests to check for the presence of bacteria. In patients with a family history of diabetes, blood and urine tests are usually taken to check blood sugar levels, as phimosis could be a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.

What are the treatment options available?

Phimosis is treated according to the signs and symptoms experienced by the patient. If there is no sign of infection, a simple daily retraction of the foreskin with the help of a topical steroid ointment could help address the problem.

If phimosis, balanitis, UTI’s and other infections keep on occurring, however, circumcision could help solve the problem permanently. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision or the removal of the foreskin can actually be performed at any age.


At the end of the day, parents need to be more aware of the changes that young boys go through as they grow up. Communication is also very important to allow children to tell their parents if they are experiencing any problems with their genitals.

Of course, nothing would beat the practice of incorporating good hygiene into the daily routine of young boys to keep them healthy and avoid health conditions that could affect their quality of life.