According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), hypospadias is a birth defect in which the opening of the urethra (through which both urine and semen pass) is on the underside, rather than at the end, of the penis. The condition varies in severity. Rare but severe types include the abnormal opening being on the scrotum or perineum.
The Center for the Study and Treatment of Hypospadias at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) reported that hypospadias is one of the most common congenital anomalies, occurring in approximately one in 250 to one in 300 live births.
The number one sign of hypospadias is the urethra located on the underside of the penis, said Children’s Hospital Boston. Other signs include a downward urinary spray (in older children with more severe hypospadias, this may mean having to sit down to urinate), a downward curve of the penis, a “hooded” appearance to the penis, caused by extra foreskin along the top side, and an abnormal appearance of the tip of the penis.
The exact reason this birth defect occurs is unknown. What is known says the Mayo Clinic, is as the penis develops in a male fetus, certain hormones stimulate the formation of the urethra and foreskin. Hypospadias results when a malfunction occurs in the action of these hormones, causing the urethra to develop abnormally.
Researchers do know, according to Children’s Hospital Boston, it appears to run in families. Hypospadias is slightly more common in boys whose father or brother also had the condition.
NIH warns infants with hypospadias shouldn’t be circumcised. The foreskin should be preserved for later surgical use.
Hypospadias is repaired through different surgical procedures. Children’s Hospital Boston says mild forms of hypospadias may not need surgery at all.
The Mayo Clinic says surgery can reposition the urethral opening and, if necessary, straighten the shaft of the penis. During surgery, a pediatric urology surgeon uses tissue grafts from the foreskin or from the inside of the mouth to reconstruct the urinary channel in the proper position, correcting the hypospadias.