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Rady Children's Specialists


What is phimosis?

Phimosis occurs in boys who are not circumcised when the extra foreskin is partially closed over the head of the penis. Many newborns boys are born like this. The foreskin will generally start to retract naturally over time. The timing of retraction is different for every boy. In some boys this occurs while they are babies, but in some children the foreskin does not retract until they are much older.

The foreskin should never be forced to retract and should not cause pain upon retraction. Once the skin is able to retract easily, it should be retracted upon voiding and when in a bath or shower for cleaning. After retraction the skin needs to be placed back over the head of the penis and should never be left in the retracted position.

When does phimosis require treatment?

Some children who are not circumcised can develop infections of the extra skin called balanitis. When this occurs repeatedly, treatment of phimosis may be necessary. Treatment may also be required if the skin does not retract easily by age 10.

How is phimosis treated?

Many boys with phimosis can be treated with a topical steroid cream that helps to loosen up the tight skin. In a small number of patients the steroid cream is not successful and circumcision may be offered to correct the problem.