A tight foreskin naturally occurs in babies and young children, and it can occasionally persist into adulthood. Although a tight foreskin does not always lead to serious medical complications, it may cause symptoms such as redness, pain, and inflammation.
Symptoms like these can interfere with normal urination and a person’s sex life. Some research shows that 2 percent of men have nonretractable foreskins throughout their lives, despite being otherwise healthy.
Read on to learn more about the classifications of tightness in the foreskin, causes, and treatment options.
Fast facts on tight foreskins:
It is natural to be uncircumcised. However, circumcision removes the possibility of developing a tight foreskin.
In rare cases, conditions that affect the skin around the penis can lead to phimosis. Learn more about phimosis below.
Treatment for a tight foreskin will depend on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms.
What are the types of a tight foreskin?
A tight foreskin may be categorized as phimosis or paraphimosis.
The medical community categorizes a tight foreskin as:
When the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back over the head of the penis, this is termed phimosis.
It is normal for young boys (usually aged 2 to 6 years) to have a foreskin that will not retract. In these instances, there is no need to be concerned about phimosis unless it causes pain, swelling, or difficulty urinating.
In cases of paraphimosis, the foreskin does not pull forward once retracted. The tip of the penis, called the glans, becomes painful and swollen.
Paraphimosis is more serious than phimosis. Emergency medical treatment may be needed to reduce the pain and swelling, and to restore blood flow to the penis.
Causes of phimosis
Phimosis can be either physiologic or pathologic.
This describes a foreskin that is tight from birth. The condition usually resolves by age 6 or 7.
Pathologic phimosis is caused by:
Conditions that cause pathologic phimosis include:
Balanitis, or inflammation of the head of the penis, can lead to a tight foreskin, painful urination, and other symptoms. Some people will also have a thick discharge beneath the foreskin.
When both the glans and foreskin are inflamed, it is called balanoposthitis. Several types of infections can cause balanoposthitis, including the yeast infection Candidiasis.
Infections may lead to scarring, which can contribute to the tightness of the foreskin.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Some STIs can cause inflammation of the glans, which may lead to tightness and discomfort. Common STIs that may be responsible for tightness of the foreskin include:
Some skin conditions that may cause or worsen symptoms include:
Eczema: A common condition that leads to dry and scaly patches on the skin.
Lichen planus: A rash characterized by shiny, flat bumps.
Lichen sclerosus: A condition that causes white patches to form on the foreskin and glans. It can also cause scarring.
Psoriasis: A chronic condition characterized by crusty, dry patches of skin.
Advancing age may lead to the development of phimosis. As skin loses elasticity, it can become stiffer and less pliable.