With the membership age of Round Table being 18 to 45 hopefully this article will be of benefit to some of you. I’m going to be telling you about something that possibly no one has spoken to you about because it’s not the kind of thing that is discussed generally- which would account for the many men I saw whilst working in a sexual health clinic back in the 90s who were facing unnecessary circumcision.
There are different beliefs and religious practices culturally about circumcision, this article is aimed at those who find themselves uncircumcised. So yes, this article is about the health of your penis. In fact, it’s not just about the health of YOUR penis but maybe the health of your son’s penis too.
There was a chap called Tom back in 1998 who attended the clinic where I worked for a check-up.
The thing that had brought him to the clinic was the discomfort he felt when having sex as his foreskin would not retract fully and would become sore and split around the opening and sting when he was having a pee. On a few occasions during sex his foreskin had fully retracted and then become stuck in this position causing him great upset, panic and discomfort- in fact he attended A&E about it on one occasion.
The consultant he had seen in the clinic brought him into my room asking me to tell him about balanitis and circumcision. The Doctor’s parting words to Tom were “Don’t worry about it, we’ll whip it off for you”. Tom was quite partial to his penis, sore split skin and all and was a little alarmed at the laid back approach to just ‘whip it off’. The long and short of this tale is that Tom kept his foreskin through education and a change in behaviour.
So, here’s the important bit. Firstly what is Balanitis? This is the term given to any inflammatory condition of the skin covering the head (glans) of the penis. Where sexually transmitted infections have been ruled out as a cause of presenting symptoms, one has to consider hygiene practices.
The foreskin should be fully retracted to expose the head of the penis and washed thoroughly every day to remove the build-up of shed skin cells, skin oils and moisture, otherwise known as Smegma.
This needs to be done from an early age. Please note however, that in terms of normal genital development in boys the foreskin is fused to the glans until the age of about 5 years old. The best way to address this with your son would be to suggest something like ‘get your end out’ or ‘pull your winky skin back a bit’ when in a nice warm bath. They should do this themselves as they know how much they can pull it back by. Even if initially you are a little uncomfortable talking about it, it will get easier and may be very beneficial for your boy in the long term. Over the following days and weeks they should be encouraged to repeat this practice until they can fully retract their foreskin revealing the whole of the glans of their penis. This should then become part of their regular hygiene routine. There will always be the exception to the rule with this and in a very small number of boys as they grow up, the foreskin will remain fused wholly or partially to the glans, if you are concerned about this I would recommend a trip to the local sexual health clinic.
The other very important piece of advice that doesn’t seem to be widely known about is the need to slightly pull back the foreskin when peeing, not a lot, just to allow the urethral opening access to the outside world so as to not be ‘peeing through the foreskin’ as it were.
If you pee through the foreskin some urine may become trapped and cover the glans of the penis and if that urine remains there for a long time, it can become an irritant and may cause the appearance of sore patches over the glans.
So back to Tom, after applying steroid cream for a few weeks to calm down the sore split skin he was advised to work on pulling back his very tight foreskin whilst in the shower using a bland emollient cream such as Diprobase, little by little, day by day until he could fully retract it. He did this and benefitted greatly not only in terms of his health and comfort but also sexually. Whilst I have told you about Tom, I have heard similar tales so many times, I thought it useful to share this with you. I hope this knowledge prevents at least one unnecessary circumcision.
With nearly 20 years of experience in the field of sexual health
Nicola has an established private practice and also works on behalf of the NHS as a Specialist Psychotherapist.
If you have been affected by this article, have a look at www.nhs.uk and search ‘STI Clinic’ or contact
Nicola for some confidential advice via www.NicolaPinder.co.uk