Balanitis is an inflammation of the head of the penis according to WebMD. Medical News Today (MNT) reports balanitis is a common condition that can occur at any age, but is more likely to affect boys under age four, as well as uncircumcised males. It’s rare among circumcised males.
Inflammation can occur if the sensitive skin under the foreskin isn’t washed regularly. WebMD says this allows sweat, debris, dead skin and bacteria to collect under the foreskin causing irritation.
The presence of tight foreskin may make it difficult to keep this area clean and can lead to irritation by a foul-smelling substance (smegma) that can also accumulate under the foreskin.
The most common cause of balanitis is lack of good hygiene in uncircumcised males. Another according to MNT is diabetes. Males with diabetes are more susceptible to infection because if glucose is present in urine, some may remain on the foreskin. Glucose helps bacteria multiply more quickly.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists other diseases, including reactive arthritis and lichen sclerosis et atrophicus, can lead to balanitis.
Dermatitis may cause also balanitis. WebMD says dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin, often caused by an irritating substance or a contact allergy. Sensitivity to soaps, detergents, perfumes, and spermicides can cause an allergic reaction.
An About.com Men’s Health article writes response to infection from various viruses and organisms can cause balanitis. These include human papillomavirus (HPV), strep, candida, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.
WebMD says symptoms of balanitis can include swelling, itching, pain, foul-smelling discharge, tenderness of the penile head, impotence, difficulty passing urine, and the inability to retract the foreskin. About.com states balanitis is characterized by a shiny red or reddish orange area. It can also present as a yellow patch with pinpoint spotting.
Without treatment, NIH says chronic inflammation or infection can scar and narrow the opening of the penis.