Certain body changes, outgrowths, and developments make men and women anxious and alarmed. Besides the sight of blood, we get terrified when we notice abnormalities in and around our genitals. Immediately we assume that we have contracted a Sexually Transmitted Disease or have developed a deadly medical condition.
However, men and women should understand that not all abnormal signs and symptoms that appear in the reproductive system or genital region are classified under STDs. Take for example, Balanitis. It is a condition caused by a myriad of factors; most of which are not even remotely connected to sexual intercourse. In this article, we will tackle Balanitis in the hopes that men as well as women understand the disease in order for proper management and care to ensue.
What is Balanitis?
Balanitis is a health syndrome which is primarily characterized by inflammation of the glans penis. Most often, the swelling at the distal end of the penis is accompanied by inflammation of the fore skin as well. The medical term, Balanitis is derived from the Greek word, “balanos” which directly means acorn in the English language.
Incidence of Balanitis
The occurrence of Balanitis is a commonplace among children below five years of age as well as uncircumcised full grown men. Studies have shown that boys who still wear diapers develop Balanitis due to the accumulation of increased moisture in the genital region. According to health studies, circumcised males are at reduced risk of developing this health condition when compared alongside those who are uncircumcised. Furthermore, studies reveal that a large majority of men who were diagnosed with Balanitis did not report an active sexual lifestyle, thus eliminating the possibility that glans penis inflammation was caused by the transmission of causative organism from the female genitalia to the male genitalia’s skin surface.
As mentioned above, Balanitis may be caused by a myriad of factors. The causative factors are generally categorized into two:
- Infectious (such as in the case of STDs)
- Non-infectious ( such as in the case of Balanitis xerotica obliterans)
The causative agent may be a bacterium, a virus, or a fungus. The treatment obviously will depend on the specific causative agent to ensure proper management and 100% eradication of Balanitis.
The most common infection that coexists with Balanitis is yeast infection. Other infections that manifest together with Balanitis are gonorrhea, herpes, and syphilis. Their respective causative agents produce a variety of unwanted symptoms which in turn results in Balanitis as well.
The most common cause of Balanitis is poor hygiene. The foreskin which covers the shaft and the tip of the penis is not washed properly, specifically the layer that is found beneath it. The accumulation of decomposing smegma plus the moisture due to lack of aeration in the genital region often results in the development of Balanitis.
Whilst poor hygiene is a contributing factor to Balanitis, so is too much cleaning of the penis. Washing the penis frequently results in drying of the genital region. The natural flora and the pH is disturbed thus increasing one’s risk to Balanitis. Soap residue also contributes to severe itching and irritation, uncomfortable signs and symptos of penis glans swelling and inflammation.
Sensitivity to specific substances also leads to dermatitis. Spermicides, perfumes, and detergents used to wash underwear may cause mild to severe irritation and appearance of rashes.
Other conditions that are linked with Balanitis are as follows:
- Uncontrolled Diabetes Mellitus
- Meatal stenosis
- Non cancerous skin condition such as psoriasis
- Some types of cancer
Signs and Symptoms of Balanitis
- Painful urination
- Rashesor lesions
- Foul discharge
Types of Balanitis
There are eight types of Balanitis subtypes that have been identified namely:
- Acute Superficial Balanitis
- Erosive Balanitis Ring
- Candida Balanitis
- Zoon’s Balanitis
- Balanitis Zerotica Obliterans
- Mica-like and Keratotic Balanitis
This is the most common type of Balanitis and is mainly due to irritation, trauma, and friction of the glans penis. The symptoms manifested by those who suffer Acute Superficial Balnitis are milder when compared alongside those that are bacterial in origin.
This subtype is manifested by those who are diagnosed with Reiter’s Disease. The inflammation is recurrent or persistent and is characterized by circular or ring damage.
The appearance of exudates and lesions is possible among men who suffer from Balanitis caused by the fungi, Candida albicans. The lesions and rashes are most often mistaken for herpes. Patients need to undergo intensive diagnostic tests to rule out STDs such as herpes and syphilis.
This is a rare subtype known to be idiopathic in nature. The skin lesions apparent among patients with Zoon’s Balanitis are primarily caused by plasma-cell infiltrate.
The appearance of white patches in the glans penis is characteristic symptom of Balanitis Zeortica Obliterans. The signs and symptoms are often mild, but indurated tissue when left untreated may advance and develop complications such as inability to retract the foreskin from the distal end of the penis.
This subtype most commonly occurs among elderly male individuals. The lesions found on the glans penis resemble warts and scales.
Prevention and Treatment
The risk for Balanitis can be reduced or eliminated altogether by exercising good personal hygiene. Rinsing the foreskin thoroughly with water is recommended so soaps and irritants get washed away immediately. A good diet also ensures that the pH in the genital region is maintained within normal range.
Simple ocular inspection is common when checking for Balanitis. For more complicated or complex cases, patient needs to undergo skin tests or even biopsy.
The treatment for Balanitis will solely depend on its causative factors. For bacterial infections, wide-spectrum antibiotics may be prescribed to eliminate chances of recurrence. Balanitis caused by viral infections and allergic reactions will be medicated with steroidal ointment or preparations. Fungal infections are typically treated with topical anti-fungal creams.
In more serious cases, Balanitis may only be treated by circumcision- a simple, outpatient procedure which simply involves foreskin removal.