The foreskin is connected to a newborn’s penis at birth. As a child grows, it naturally separates from the head of the penis. In some boys, the foreskin does not separate. The reason why is not known.

In phimosis may happen due to:

  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Repeated forceful retraction of the foreskin
  • Inflammation and swelling

Risk Factors

Phimosis is more common in young boys. It may also occur in older boys and men.

Things that may raise the risk are:

  • Trauma
  • Bacterial infections, such as balanitis
  • Poor hygiene



The main symptom is not being able to retract the foreskin. Other problems may be pain, swelling, and redness.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. It will include a genital exam. The diagnosis is made based on the ability of the foreskin to retract.



In some people, phimosis may improve on its own with time. In others, treatment will depend on the cause. Options are:

  • Medicine applied to the foreskin to ease swelling and loosen the skin
  • Circumcision to partially or fully remove the foreskin and any adhesions
  • Prevention

    The risk of some types of phimoses may be lowered by:

    • Gently retracting the foreskin when urinating and bathing
    • Maintaining good hygiene of the penis and foreskin
    • Circumcision to remove the foreskin

    This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

    Edits to original content made by Denver Health.