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What are the Common Causes of Foreskin Swelling?

Marjorie McAtee
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Foreskin swelling can be a symptom of phimosis, paraphimosis, or balanitis. There are a number of factors that can cause or contribute to swelling of the foreskin, including infection, poor hygiene, contact dermatitis, and sexual activity. Foreskin swelling doesn't always require treatment, but it can, in some cases, constitute a genuine medical emergency. Swelling of the foreskin affects only uncircumcised men and boys.

One of the most common types of foreskin swelling is phimosis, which occurs most often in infants and boys. In phimosis, the foreskin becomes so swollen that it cannot be pulled back over the head of the penis, or glans. Poor hygiene and infection, including yeast infection, are among the top causes of phimosis, especially in infants and children. Phimosis can also occur after sexual intercourse or masturbation. Phimosis is not generally considered a medical emergency, but it can cause problems with urination. Phimosis sometimes goes away on its own, but if symptoms do not resolve within 12 to 24 hours, medical care is usually advised.

Paraphimosis is considered a far more serious condition and immediate medical treatment is usually recommended for this problem. Paraphimosis occurs when the foreskin gets stuck in a retracted position, and cannot be pulled back down over the glans. Paraphimosis is generally considered a medical emergency, since the swollen, retracted foreskin can cut off the blood supply to the glans. Without treatment, paraphimosis can lead to gangrene in the penis, and the penis may need to be amputated. Paraphimosis most often occurs after sexual intercourse, masturbation, or erection. It can also occur due to poorly executed circumcision, injury to the foreskin or glans, or use of urinary catheters.

Balanitis is an irritation of the foreskin that can cause foreskin swelling. Poor hygiene can contribute to balanitis, since it can allow bacteria to thrive under the foreskin. Yeast infections and sexually transmitted infections can cause balanitis, as can allergic reactions to soaps, spermicides, and fragrances. Dermatitis can also lead to balanitis, since it can leave the foreskin irritated. Symptoms other than foreskin swelling usually accompany balanitis, such as itching, discharge from the urethra, or a rash.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Marjorie McAtee
By Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By anon1002224 — On Oct 03, 2019

I am diabetic. I thought this swelling began due to mysugar going high, but no, it is not. It is the side effects of my insulin. I changed from Lantus to Basaglare. I apply Soframycine, antibiotic skin cream lightly and it goes back down. The other day, I went to Boston to visit some relatives. I stayed two nights and used their soap. Well, my body did not take it nicely. I started to have irritation and swelling above the glans area, which never happened before. After I applied the cream it got much better. I explained this to the doctor, too, but he never suggested anything to me. Sometimes our calmness and mild treatment helps. Have faith and good luck my friends.

By anon996426 — On Aug 27, 2016

My dad told me not to touch but I did and now it is swollen.

By anon992624 — On Sep 20, 2015

I've recently noticed my foreskin is itching more than usual and also is red and tender to the touch, ("ok, don't touch it then). Seriously though, on closer inspection I also noticed that my scrotal sac was also dry and flaky. Is this just a case of hygiene and a yeast infection or something more sinister? I class myself as well groomed and clean so what are the likely options?

By SeanH — On Aug 07, 2015

All of my foreskin problems stemmed from poor hygiene. Odors, tightness, infections and swelling all disappeared when I started washing out my foreskin every day. It was difficult at first, but I stuck to it. I also use a penis health creme that contains Vitamin A as extra protection against leftover bacteria. I'm telling you guys: keep the foreskin clean, and use one of these cremes and you will be golden.

By anon990821 — On May 11, 2015

I had this once real bad after having rough sex for a fairly prolonged period of time. The foreskin swelled up so bad, it went back down after 24 hours, but it was like double the size, painful and raw. I wasn't sure if it was std-related or just friction. I messaged the girl when I got back, something like 'what have you done, you've made my penis all massive on the end.' I think she misunderstood this as some kind of dirty talk, but for real, it scared the hell out of me.

By anon949306 — On May 04, 2014

My penis foreskin has been swollen like a rubber band for the past week. It was first time I was able to retract my foreskin completely but now I'm worried how long will it take for the swelling to go away.

By anon354068 — On Nov 05, 2013

My penis has been swelled for four months. I am in the Gulf and I do lots of hand practice, so tell me about penis swelling and what I should do now,

By anon349883 — On Sep 30, 2013

I’ve had it several times lately. I have battled jock itch, or that’s what they say. It has been terribly bad for the past two years. I almost always am trying a new cream or powder and have to fight it every day. I bathe daily, thank you.

I have had four boils in this area on two different occasions a month apart. I had them lanced. I had two on my inner thigh and two in my butt crack near my anus. I now have two small ones on my perineum that they did not lance but gave me Bactrim to take by mouth. The boils are small now and not inflamed. My rectum is itchy and raw and red.

My perineum and scrotum and lastly, my foreskin are very swollen and red and I have a light rash on my penis head. I also had a bladder infection with this. I went to the doctor last week and got a scrip for Bactrim and I am taking that now. It has helped the bladder infection but I’m using Lotrimun Extra on the itch at the scrotum and Neosporin and Prep H on the anus and perineum. I’m not making a lot of headway here on healing. I’m going to the Doctor today at 3:15 hope we make some progress. I am going to ask for complete blood work and check for diabetes. After reading all of the comments here, it sounds like it might be a yeast infection instead of a fungal infection, thus the reason the Lotrimin Extra is not healing it. Pray for me. I’ll pray for you. A person really needs some relief from an itch and swelling down there.

By anon342338 — On Jul 19, 2013

I've experienced a swollen foreskin for the first time. After sexual intercourse last night, I noticed my penis got bigger than normal. There was no pain and no discharge -- just swelling of the foreskin. What is the cause of that?

By anon337979 — On Jun 09, 2013

Can swelling also be caused by masturbation alone or would it have to be pretty rough?

By anon330304 — On Apr 15, 2013

Phimosis doesn't exist as a diagnosis before puberty. If a doctor diagnoses that any younger, then he's not educated properly (and many American doctors are not). The foreskin isn't supposed to retract before puberty, and it is normal for it not to retract even into adulthood. Paraphimosis in a child is caused by doctors who don't know better than to retract the foreskin. It's like tearing the hymen of a girl.

By anon310359 — On Dec 22, 2012

I seem to have paraphimosis, but I noticed it right away before the swelling got big and returned the foreskin to its normal position. I don't know if I need to see a doctor or if I will be OK. Any advice?

By jocobimom — On Sep 21, 2012

My five year old son, has been having problems with his penis. It was circumcised at birth. Lately, it has been getting swollen and bruised looking and painful to touch, then minutes later it gets better. This has been going on for about six weeks and happens about once a day. Any clue on what the problem is?

By anon292346 — On Sep 19, 2012

I have had pains on my frenulum for many years now and still the pains persist. Please advise me on the best medication to cure this issue.

By ZipLine — On Aug 10, 2012

@anon250507-- That's possible if you have thrush or a bacterial infection there. But it's not as likely if your diabetes is under control with insulin or medication.

Basically, if your blood sugar is very high, the sugar can end up in your urine. And bacteria or fungi tend to thrive on sugar. So the sugar in your urine might be triggering an infection on your foreskin which causes swelling and other symptoms.

It would be best to see your doctor and make sure your blood sugar is under control. Also make make sure you keep your foreskin clean. Don't allow urine to stay on it.

By fBoyle — On Aug 10, 2012

@anon281723-- Did you masturbate the day before?

I had this happen to me once. I still don't know how or why it happened but it was the morning after I masturbated. My foreskin was extremely swollen, not very painful but I couldn't pull it back. So I guess yours is a little different.

I would wait a few days to see if the swelling will go down on its own. If it doesn't go down or if you have severe pain or anything like that, definitely go see a doctor. Meanwhile take some aspirin and you can apply some ice (with a towel in between) to help decrease the swelling. My swelling went down on its own in a couple of days. And the aspirin and ice helped a lot too.

By stoneMason — On Aug 09, 2012

My son had severe paraphimosis when he was just a few days old. He couldn't even urinate and was crying all the time. The doctors decided that since he's so young, it would be best to circumcise him.

We're not sure why it happened, probably due to an infection. But we couldn't risk him developing gangrene and other serious complications so we just had him circumcised. I'm glad we did because he didn't have any problems after that. He's now five and a very healthy boy.

By anon281723 — On Jul 25, 2012

My penis's foreskin part, corona and frenulum are swollen. The frenulum is more sensitive and there is now a little scar on my frenulum. The skin can be pulled back with no problems, and I didn't have sexual intercourse. It just started one day. Should I go see a doctor? I'm 22.

By anon250507 — On Feb 26, 2012

I am a diabetic. When my sugars stay high for a while, I get paraphimosis. Is this possible?

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.
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