There are quite a few
types of penile conditions
. Some are minor and don't cause many problems, and some are serious medical emergencies that require
immediate treatment or surgery
. Penile conditions can be congenital, which means they are present at birth, or they can develop over time.
Some of the more common disorders and conditions that affect the penis are:
Balanitis is inflammation of the glans (head) of the penis. If the foreskin is also inflamed, the condition is called balanoposthitis. Symptoms of balanitis can include penile pain, swelling and itching, a rash on the penis, and a strong-smelling discharge from the penis. The most common cause of balanitis is poor hygiene in uncircumcised males. If the penis isn't properly cleaned underneath the foreskin, bacteria, sweat, dead skin cells, and debris can build up around the glans and lead to inflammation. If an uncircumcised male has phimosis (foreskin that is difficult to retract) and cannot clean under the foreskin, risk of inflammation increases. Other causes of balanitis include dermatitis and infection (yeast infection or sexually transmitted infection). If infection is the cause, treatment will include antibiotic or antifungal medication. If balanitis is severe or recurrent, circumcision may be the best treatment option.
Epispadias is a rare birth defect characterized by a urethra that doesn't fully develop, which results in the inability to pass urine from the body properly. Both boys and girls can be born with epispadias. When it occurs in boys, they are normally born with a short, wide penis that is curved abnormally. Rather than the urethra opening at the tip of the penis, it may open on the top of side of the penis, or it may be open all along the length of the penis. Signs and symptoms of epispadias in males include an abnormal opening in the urethra, a widened pubic bone, an abnormally shaped penis or abnormally curved penis (chordee), reflux nephropathy (backward flow of urine into the kidney), urinary incontinence and urinary tract infections. Cases range from mild to severe. Mild cases may not require surgery, but most cases of epispadias will need to be surgically corrected. The goals of treatment are to maximize the function and length of the penis and to create a more normal appearance of the penis. In cases where the bladder is involved, surgery will also need to create a pathway for urine to pass normally and to help preserve fertility. There are two common surgical techniques to correct epispadias: the modified Cantwell technique and the Mitchell technique.
Hypospadias is a birth defect in which the opening of the urethra develops on the underside of the penis instead of on the tip. The condition ranges in severity, depending on where the opening forms. Many times, the urethral opening is near the head of the penis. Some boys are born with the opening in the middle of the shaft or the base of the penis, and rarely, boys can be born with the urethral opening below the scrotum. Signs and symptoms of hypospadias include an abnormal urethral opening, chordee (a downward curve of the penis), abnormal spraying during urination and foreskin abnormalities that make the penis appear hooded. Hypospadias is a relatively common problem that has a straightforward diagnosis and treatment. Most men who were born with hypospadias experience normal sexual function as adults if they received treatment. Treatment involves surgical correction to reposition the urethral opening and, in some cases, to straighten the shaft of the penis. Surgery is most often done between the ages of three and 18 months.
Cancer of the penis, also called penile cancer, almost always begins in the skin cells of the penis. There are five basic types of penile cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, basal cell cancer, adenocarcinoma and sarcoma. About 95 percent of all cancers of the penis develop from squamous cells, which are flat skin cells. Cancer that develops from squamous cells is called squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell cancers tend to grow slowly, and they can usually be cured if they are found early. Carcinoma in situ, or CIS, is the earliest stage of squamous cell penile cancer. With CIS, cancer is only found in the top layers of the skin on the penis. Melanoma and basal cell cancer each make up less than 2 percent of all penile cancers, and sarcoma and adenocarcinoma, otherwise known as Paget disease of the penis, are even rarer. Penile cancer must be treated. If the cancer is found early, chances are good that the penis can be saved. However, if cancer has spread to deep tissues of the penis, a surgeon may have to perform a penectomy (removal of part or the entire penis) to remove the cancer. Learn more about penile cancer symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment.
Peyronie's disease is a penile condition that develops when scar tissue, called plaque, forms inside the penis and causes erections to be curved and painful. Many men have a slight curve to their erect penis, and it doesn't cause any problems. But when it is painful or the bend is significant, it can lead to erectile dysfunction and may even make sexual intercourse impossible. Signs and symptoms of Peyronie's disease include scar tissue that can be felt under the skin of the penis, a significant bend or curve of the penis, difficulty getting or keeping an erection, pain in the penis, and shortening of the penis. Sometimes Peyronie's disease is mild and doesn't cause significant problems. In that case, treatment may not be necessary. There is also a chance it will improve or even go away on its own without treatment. However, if you have penile pain or the curve of your penis causes problems with sexual intercourse, call your doctor. You may need to take medication, have the scar injected with a medication or have surgery to correct the Peyronie's.. Your doctor may prescribe other medications as well. If your disease is severe and isn't improving on its own or with treatment, surgery may be an option.
Phimosis and paraphimosis
Phimosis is a condition that makes it difficult to retract the foreskin of the penis. Paraphimosis is a condition that makes repositioning the foreskin difficult. Both conditions can occur in boys and men who are uncircumcised (have not had their foreskin removed).
Phimosis is common in infants because their foreskin is still tight. In most cases, it resolves on its own as boys age. However, if boys cannot retract their foreskin by the time they are adolescents, they may need treatment. Treatments include applying steroid creams (to loosen the foreskin so it can be manipulated) and circumcision if steroid cream is unsuccessful.
Symptoms of paraphimosis include inability to return foreskin to its normal position, difficulty with ejaculation and urination, discoloration or bruising of the penis, and swelling of the penis.
Paraphimosis can be a medical emergency and should always be evaluated by a doctor right away for evaluation and treatment.
Treatment options include circumcision (if other treatments fail), manipulating and lubricating the foreskin to reposition it, and making a small incision in the foreskin to reduce swelling and/or bulging.
Priapism is a persistent erection that lasts more than four hours and is not relieved by orgasm. Erections that occur with this condition can be painful and are not always related to sexual activity. Common causes include medications, alcohol and drug abuse (especially cocaine and marijuana), spinal cord problems and certain blood diseases.
Priapism is a medical emergency. If you have an erection that has lasted more than four hours, you should seek treatment at an emergency room.
Treatment usually involves draining blood from the penis. Medications to help shrink blood vessels may also be used. Rarely, surgery will be necessary to correct the problem and prevent permanent damage to the penis.
If you have
symptoms of penile conditions
or have been
with a penile condition and would like to talk with us about treatment options, call 800-633-7377 to make an appointment with a board certified urologist.
Learn more about penile conditions