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The condition where the foreskin of the penis is too tight to retract properly is called is phimosis. This condition is considered normal in babies and toddlers. In older children or adults, phimosis can be a problem since it can cause pain and discomfort while getting an erection or during sexual intercourse. In rare cases, it can also prevent urination and is classified as an emergency.

Normal Development

In normal cases, the foreskin remains attached to the glans (penis head) till about six years of age after which it should start to separate on its own and become retractable. This commonly happens by the age of 2.

Problems Associated With Phimosis

Phimosis can become an issue if the affected individual starts to develop pain, swelling, redness, repeated injuries, scarring or soreness.

This can also lead to an inflammation of the underlying glans, called as balanitis. If there are no symptoms associated with phimosis then there is no need for any treatment.

Treatment Options For Phimosis

The first option for the treatment of Phimosis is always non-surgical. The affected person is instructed to try and retract the foreskin every day so that it may become loose over time. It may be necessary to use a lubricant to help make the process possible.

If the foreskin does not retract, then it should never be forced as it can cause serious injury.

The use of lubricants and condoms also makes the process of intercourse more comfortable for the person affected.


This can be a good option in case of youngsters or adults who are suffering from a tight foreskin. Circumcision, the process where a part or the complete foreskin is removed, is the surgical treatment of choice here.

It is important to remember that this seemingly small and straightforward procedure also carries with it the risk of bleeding and infection. This is why it may be considered as the last option even though the results may be the best achieved by it.

The surgeon also has the option to simply release the attachment points of the foreskin so that it can become retractable. The only problem with this treatment option is that this attachment can reoccur in a large percentage of the cases.


Another problem that can be caused in the case of a tight foreskin is that it does not return to its normal position after being retracted. This is a serious problem and should be treated as a medical emergency.

The tight foreskin causes the glans to swell up and can cut off the circulation to the area. It causes extreme pain and discomfort to the person and in very severe cases can cause the onset of gangrene. In this extremely rare and severe case, the penis sometimes has to be removed surgically from the body.


The incidence of a tight foreskin is around 1% of the population although there are likely to be many more unreported cases. Non-surgical treatment should be sufficient in most cases to relieve the problem. A visit to the doctor at the earliest is recommended.

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