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Your GP should be able to diagnose balanitis by examining your penis.

Your GP should be able to diagnose balanitis by examining your penis.

You may initially feel embarrassed about visiting your GP with the symptoms of balanitis, but it's important that you do because the symptoms could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition and you or your child may need prescription-only medication.

Seeing your GP

To determine what is causing balanitis, your GP will examine your (or your child’s) penis and ask a number of questions to help determine the cause. They may ask:

  • how often you clean your penis
  • whether you may have been exposed to irritants, such as soap or bubble bath
  • whether you have a history of skin conditions, such as atopic eczema
  • whether you may have damaged the head of your penis during sex

For children, your GP may ask whether you have noticed your child playing with their foreskin and, if your child is very young, they may want to know how often they have their nappy changed.

Further testing is usually only needed if the symptoms are particularly severe or do not clear with treatment. This usually involves taking a small sample of cells from the head of the penis (a swab) and testing them for infection.

Occasionally, your GP may arrange blood and urine tests to measure your blood sugar levels. This is to check whether you have developed diabetes, which may be making you more vulnerable to infection.

Referral to a specialist

In some cases, your GP may refer you to a specialist such as a dermatologist (skin specialist) or urologist (specialist in conditions affecting the urinary tract and genitals).

For example, you may be referred if your GP is not sure what is causing your condition, treatment isn't helping, or your GP thinks you could have an underlying condition.

If your GP thinks your symptoms could be caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), they may recommend getting tested at a sexual health clinic. Testing of your recent sexual partner(s) may also be arranged if appropriate.

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Treatments for balanitis include corticosteroid creams for skin irritation, fungal creams for fungal infections, and antibiotics for bacterial infections.

If you or your child has balanitis, the recommended treatment will depend on what is causing the condition.


In all cases, you should keep your penis clean by washing it with warm water once a day.

You should also try to avoid potential irritants, such as soap, bubble bath and baby wipes. You may find it helpful to use an emollient as a soap substitute.

Read about preventing balanitis for more information on hygiene and avoiding irritants.

Topical corticosteroids

If your balanitis is the result of skin irritation and not an infection, you will usually be prescribed a topical corticosteroid (steroid cream or ointment).

Apply the cream to the head of your penis once a day until your symptoms have gone. Do not use the medication for more than 14 days in a row because this could lead to side effects, such as thinning of the skin.

Antifungal medication

If your balanitis is the result of a fungal infection, you will be prescribed either an antifungal cream to use several times a day for at least two weeks, or a single dose of the oral antifungal medication (tablet or capsule) fluconazole.

Side effects of antifungal creams can include a rash, itching and swelling. These creams can also damage latex condoms, so you should use an alternative form of contraception for at least five days after treatment stops.

Fluconazole is not recommended for children who are under 16 years old. It can also cause side effects, including nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhoea, and abdominal (tummy) pain.

If your symptoms are particularly troublesome, you may be prescribed a topical corticosteroid to use as well.


If a bacterial infection is the cause of your balanitis, you will be prescribed a seven-day course of an oral antibiotic (antibiotic tablets or capsules), such as flucloxacillin or metronidazole.

Common side effects of these types of antibiotics include a rash, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Again, if your symptoms are particularly troublesome, you may also be prescribed a topical corticosteroid.

Further treatment

The treatments listed above should start working within seven days. Contact your GP if your symptoms do not start improving by this time because you may require alternative treatment and you may need to see a specialist.

In rare cases, if you have phimosis (a tight foreskin) and you have repeat episodes of balanitis, you may be advised to have a partial circumcision (where some of the foreskin is removed).

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You can usually reduce your chances of developing balanitis if you avoid potential irritants and infections, and keep your penis clean.

You can usually reduce your chances of developing balanitis if you avoid potential irritants and infections, and keep your penis clean.

Avoiding irritants

Possible irritants to avoid include:

  • soaps and bubble bath
  • baby wipes
  • creams
  • latex condoms
  • lubricants

You can buy emollients to use instead of soap and latex-free condoms made for sensitive skin.

Penis hygiene

To keep your penis clean, you should:

  • make sure the tip of your penis is completely dry and free of urine after urinating
  • carefully wash the head of your penis with water every day and gently clean under your foreskin
  • make sure you dry your penis thoroughly after bathing or showering

This advice also applies to children, although young boys may not yet be able to clean under their foreskin because it may not fully pull back. This should not be forced and should eventually become possible as they get older.

Babies and young children who still wear nappies may also be at a higher risk of balanitis due to the warm and moist conditions, so make sure you change your child's nappy regularly.

Read about how to wash a penis.

Preventing STIs

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can sometimes cause balanitis, so reducing your chances of picking up one of these infections may lower your risk of developing the condition.

STIs can often be prevented by using appropriate contraception and taking other precautions, such as:

  • using condoms every time you have vaginal or anal sex
  • using a condom to cover the penis, or a latex or plastic square (dam) to cover the female genitals, if you have oral sex
  • not sharing sex toys, or washing them and covering them with a new condom before anyone else uses them

Read more advice about STIs.

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