Does Balanitis Go Away on Its Own?

A man in blue and white striped boxer shorts with his hands over his genital regions as if he's embarrassed or in pain.
  • Balanitis is an inflammatory infection of the head of the penis and the foreskin, possibly caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like herpes.
  • A balanitis infection can also be caused by certain lifestyle factors like improper hygiene, or medical conditions such as latex allergies.
  • Although balanitis can resolve without treatment, it’s recommended to get medical care as soon as possible. This ensures a full recovery and can also prevent recurring infections.
  • Treatment options for balanitis will often include a combination of oral medications and topical treatments — for example, using antibiotics and steroid creams.

Balanitis is a common male genital infection that affects around 3-11% of American men in their lifetime.

It triggers a painful inflammatory response that can also cause small sores to develop on different areas of the genitals.

Although it isn’t a life-threatening condition, balanitis can be uncomfortable to deal with and even increase your risk of contracting more serious diseases.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at balanitis, its causes, and different treatment options that can help you manage your symptoms.

What is Balanitis?

Balanitis is an inflammatory infection of the head of the penis and the foreskin. It can be a secondary symptom of common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like herpes.

There are three types of balanitis, namely:

  • Zoon’s balanitis: the most common type of this infection, usually affecting middle-aged people and uncircumcised individuals.
  • Circinate balanitis: a type of balanitis caused by reactive arthritis that is triggered by infection. This variation causes pain, inflammation, and the development of tiny sores on the head of the penis.
  • Pseudoepitheliomatous keratotic and micaceous balanitis: a rare form of balanitis that causes wart-like bumps to form on the foreskin. It mainly affects people over 60.

What Causes a Balanitis Infection?

Balanitis is usually caused by a fungal, bacterial, or yeast infection.

It can also develop because of poor hygiene, which causes impurities to become trapped in the foreskin, leading to skin irritation.

Trapped impurities also create the perfect environment for harmful organisms to grow, increasing the chances of bacterial infection.

Overwashing in an attempt to prevent infection can also damage the foreskin and strip it of necessary moisture. This can cause inflammation and swelling, often leading to balanitis.

Other common causes of balanitis include:

  • Latex allergies
  • Allergic reactions to certain medications
  • Using harsh soaps, lotions, or baby wipes to clean the genital area
  • Injuries to the foreskin or genitals
  • Scabies (an infestation of tiny skin mites)
  • Having an uncircumcised penis

What are the symptoms of a balanitis infection?

There are many tell-tale signs of balanitis to look out for if you suspect that you may have caught this infection. These include:

  • Pain and irritation on the foreskin and head of the penis
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Areas of shiny or white skin on the penis
  • Thick, foul-smelling discharge
  • Discoloration that may also look like a rash
  • Pain while urinating or ejaculating
  • Sores or lesions on and around the genitals
  • Tight foreskin that can’t be pulled back

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor.

Balanitis may require prescription medicine and professional medical care to ensure successful treatment.

Key Point: How is Balanitis Diagnosed?

Balanitis should be diagnosed by a medical professional.

They will likely ask you questions about your sexual activity, symptoms, and medical history. Then your doctor will perform a physical examination of the genital area.

Your doctor may also ask for various medical tests — like a discharge swab, and urine or blood sample analysis — to determine the root cause of your infection.

How long does balanitis last?

A normal balanitis infection tends to last around seven days. Symptoms should start to clear after a week, provided that you’ve improved your hygiene and you are getting proper treatment.

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Will Balanitis Go Away on its Own?

Most cases of balanitis will require some form of medical treatment. If left untreated, the infection can worsen and cause damage to the penis.

If you’ve contracted balanitis because of an STD, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Key Point: Can Balanitis Be Prevented?

You can easily prevent developing balanitis by putting measures in place to protect you from contracting an infection.

These include:

  • Practicing safe sex and using proper protection.
  • Getting tested for STDs at a sexual health clinic.
  • Ensuring that your sexual partners are clean.
  • Practicing proper hygiene.
  • Avoid using harsh soaps, lotions, and laundry detergent that may irritate the genitals.
  • Properly dry the foreskin and glans after urinating.

If you suffer from recurring balanitis infections, it’s recommended you seek professional advice to help you get to the root cause.

What Are the Treatment Options for Balanitis?

Although the best treatment for balanitis is to avoid contracting STDs in the first place, there are a few options that can alleviate acute symptoms.

Depending on the severity of your infection, your doctor might recommend a combination of the treatments discussed in the next section.

Oral medication

Oral medication is often the first course of action for treating a balanitis infection. Your doctor may prescribe the following to help you manage your symptoms:

  • Antibiotics like amoxicillin can be used to treat bacterial balanitis infections by reducing their severity. It may also provide relief from painful symptoms.
  • Antihistamines can help reduce the severity of balanitis caused by allergies. This medicine can also alleviate secondary symptoms like itching and swelling.

Topical remedies

Your doctor may also recommend using topical treatments for your infection. These are ointments or creams that you apply directly to the affected area and may include:

  • Antifungal creams which may help reduce inflammation caused by yeast infections (also known as candida albicans), thereby helping to alleviate pain and swelling.
  • Steroid creams that work in a similar way to antifungal creams, but are effective for treating a balanitis infection caused by bacteria, too. They reduce the inflammation and itching caused by balanitis.

Medical procedures

If you’re dealing with recurring balanitis infections and you’re uncircumcised, your healthcare provider may recommend getting circumcised — a surgical procedure that removes the foreskin of the penis.

Circumcision has been proven to reduce the risk of penile inflammatory skin disorders like balanitis.

Where Can I Learn More About Balanitis?

If you are experiencing or are worried about any of the symptoms we’ve covered in this article, you can talk to a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner from your home using your smartphone, computer, or tablet. Head over to LifeMD to make a video appointment.

Dr. Jonathan Guirguis

Dr. Guirguis attended Nova Southeastern University for medical school and stayed in South Florida to train in Internal Medicine. Born outside Chicago, he slowly made his way down south, settling in Texas with his wife and three children.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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