Hygiene is often the reason behind balanitis and not keeping your penis clean is certainly a potential cause. In some cases, washing is made more difficult by a condition called phimosis, in which the foreskin is unable to fully retract.
In addition to not washing properly, scrubbing too hard or using products that irritate your skin can lead to balanitis.
It can be a symptom of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia or herpes, another reason to get yourself checked as soon as possible. Condoms can also contribute, particularly if you are allergic to latex.
Balanitis could be a symptom of a fungal infection such as thrush. It is not an STI, but sex is one of the possible triggers. These infections can also affect men with diabetes, or those who have been taking antibiotics. Infection can also be caused by streptococcal bacteria.
Some men suffer from skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis that make them more susceptible to balanitis.
Despite all these possible reasons, in some cases there is no obvious cause, leading to a diagnosis of nonspecific balanitis.
Your treatment will be dictated by your diagnosis. If irritated skin is identified as the cause, then there are ointments available that will deal with your symptoms.
You might be prescribed antifungal or antibacterial medication, some of which can produce side effects from irritation of the skin to nausea. A doctor will warn you about this before you begin taking any medication.
If poor hygiene is the cause, then changing your habits will stop the symptoms from worsening and prevent them returning in future.
In some rare cases, particularly when phimosis is diagnosed, partial or full circumcision might be an option.
Whatever the reason for your balanitis, it’s very important to get an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible, so speak to a doctor today.