Phimosis is a condition where it is difficult to retract the foreskin over the tip of the penis. This may be caused by the opening of the foreskin of the penis being too small, or the foreskin being too tight or stuck to the head of the penis.
The foreskin is connected to a newborn’s penis at birth. This called physiologic phimosis. As a child grows, the foreskin naturally separates from the head of the penis. In some boys, the foreskin does not separate. The reason why is not known.
In other cases, called pathologic phimosis, it may happen due to:
Phimosis is more common in young boys. It may also occur in older boys and men.
Risk factors for phimosis may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It will include a genital exam. The diagnosis is made based on the ability of the foreskin to retract.
Phimosis may improve with time. If treatment is needed it will be chosen depending on the cause of your phimosis. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
Your doctor may advise medication that is applied to the area. Medication can help decrease swelling and loosen the skin.
If medication is not successful, a surgical procedure may be done. The foreskin may need to be partially or totally removed. This can be done with circumcision. Occasionally, small strands connecting the foreskin to the penis, called adhesions, can be removed.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Canadian Paediatric Society
McGregor T, Pike J, et al. Pathologic and physiologic phimosis. Can Fam Physician. 2007 March;53(3):445-448.
Phimosis and paraphimosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114116/Phimosis-and-paraphimosis. Updated October 2, 2017. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Phimosis. University of California, San Francisco website. Available at: http://urology.ucsf.edu/patient-care/children/phimosis. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Phimosis and paraphimosis. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/phimosis-and-paraphimosis. Updated June 16, 2014. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Phimosis (tight foreskin). NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/phimosis/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Updated August 8, 2015. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Tight foreskin (phimosis). The British Association of Urological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.baus.org.uk/patients/symptoms/phimosis. Accessed February 19, 2016.
Tight foreskin (phimosis). NetDoctor website. Available at: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/phimosis.htm. Accessed March 6, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Alan Drabkin, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.