Balanitis is when the head of the penis is swollen and sore.

Balanitis is not usually serious but it's important to see a GP to find out what's causing it.

Check if you have balanitis

With balanitis, the head of your penis is usually:

Other symptoms can include:

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you or your child have symptoms of balanitis
  • treatment has not worked

Adults can also go to a sexual health clinic for assessment.

Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals.

Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.

They'll often get test results quicker than GP practices.

Find a sexual health clinic

What happens at your appointment

A doctor or nurse will look at your penis and ask you a few questions. They may also wipe a cotton bud over the head of your penis to test for infections.

If any treatment they prescribe does not work, the cause is unknown, or the infection is severe and thrush is present, a blood test may be suggested to check if you have diabetes.

Treatment for balanitis

Treatment for balanitis depends on what's causing it.

A GP may prescribe:

If you or your child keeps getting balanitis and medicine has not helped, circumcision (surgery to remove the foreskin) may be considered.

Things you can do if you have balanitis


  • wash your penis every day

  • gently pull back your foreskin and wash the area with warm water

  • dry gently after washing

  • if you use condoms, choose condoms for sensitive skin

  • wash your hands before peeing or touching your penis


  • do not use soap or shower gel but you could use an emollient (moisturising treatment)

Things you can do if your child has balanitis


  • gently wash your child's penis every day

  • use warm water and then dry it gently

  • if they wear nappies, change your child's nappies often


  • do not use soap, bubble bath or baby wipes

  • do not pull your child's foreskin back if it is fixed in place

Causes of balanitis

Causes of balanitis include:

Page last reviewed: 8 July 2020
Next review due: 8 July 2023