What to know about penis swelling

A swollen penis has many potential causes, but most cases aren’t a cause for concern. In certain cases, however, people may need urgent medical attention.

A swollen penis can make urinating, or having intercourse, difficult. Other symptoms can follow swelling, such as redness, discomfort, itching, or discharge. To determine the underlying cause, it is necessary to note certain signs.

The penis consists of the following parts:

  • The tip, head, or glans: This is where the urethra is, and where semen and urine come out.
  • The shaft: Generally, the longest portion of the penis that extends from the tip to where it connects to the lower abdomen.
  • Foreskin: A retractable flap of skin that covers and protects the head of the penis. Some people may surgically remove the foreskin via circumcision.
  • Frenulum: Where the foreskin meets the underside of the penis.

Understanding the anatomy of the penis will also help determine the origin of the swell.

This article addresses possible causes of swelling of the penile, therapies, and when to see a doctor.

Causes

A man opening a condom
Allergic reaction, sexual injury, and balanitis are common causes for a swollen penis.

A swollen penis has many possible causes, ranging from accidental damage to more severe conditions which may grow over time.

Allergic reaction

Sometimes someone can have an allergic reaction to any of the creams or lotions they use on the penis, which can cause painful swelling.

They may also be allergic to latex used in certain preservatives. Studies suggest that latex allergy can occur in as many as 4.3 percent of the general population.

Treatment: If a person is allergic to creams or latex, avoiding the offending substance is the safest way to. The reaction can ease for mild allergies by itself, or people can use antihistamines over-the-counter. Epinephrine may be required for serious allergies to prevent anaphylaxis.

Sexual injury

People may damage their penis accidentally during sexual intercourse, typically due to excessive force, lack of lubrication, or an unintentional thrust at the wrong spot. Although there is no bone in the penis, it could be experiencing something that urologists call a “fracture.”

For example, through vigorous thrusting a person can experience penile trauma. Especially if your partner exits the penis, then it does not enter smoothly again. Despite the erection the force will cause it to bend sharply. This can be painful and sometimes the pain is followed by a popping sound.

Treatment: A penile fracture is a medical emergency and if they experience this a person should see a doctor right away. Treatment often involves surgery. Antibiotics and pain medicine can also be administered by a doctor to aid healing process.

Balanitis

Balanitis is Glans Penis pain. Studies say that it affects around 3–11 percent of males during their lifespan. Balanitis can cause symptoms such as:

  • redness and swelling
  • itchiness
  • pain or tenderness at the head of the penis
  • discharge from the penis

There are many underlying causes of balanitis, including:

Treatment: A doctor may prescribe an antibiotic, ointment or cream. If balanitis reoccurs regularly a doctor may suggest circumcision.

Priapism

Priapism is a condition where the penis has a prolonged, sexually induced erection without. This condition requires immediate medical professional assessment and may require emergency care as it may lead to permanent erectile dysfunction.

Treatment: Priapism care can differ according to the underlying cause. A doctor may in some cases drain the old blood from the penis, or inject medicine into the penis to fix the problem of blood flow.

Doctors may suggest surgery, or fit a shunt, in more serious cases. The longer a person has those symptoms, the greater the chance of a poorer outcome.

Phimosis

Phimosis is when the foreskin is too tight, rendering bringing it down over the head of the penis difficult.

While common in babies and infants, the foreskin usually separates spontaneously from the glans when children reach age 2–6. If the foreskin sticks to the inflamed and swollen glans penis, phimosis may occur as a complication of balanitis.

Treatment: Phimosis typically can be treated with good hygiene, creams, and ointments. A doctor may recommend using steroid creams, antibiotics, and getting the foreskin gently removed after a bath or shower. If it happens again, a doctor may recommend a circumcision. Alternatively, a doctor may make an incision to widen the foreskin, known as a ‘dorsal slit.

Paraphimosis

Paraphimosis is a disease in which a person draws back his foreskin and is unable to return it to the original location above the penile tip. This causes the foreskin to compress like a tight rubber band, slowing or blocking blood flow to the tip.

Treatment: Potential solutions involve applying a local anesthetic gel to the penis, minimizing discomfort and inflammation, then squeezing the glans and moving forward the foreskin.

If the prepuce does not return to its original location, then another treatment choice is for a surgeon to cut the prepuce and extract it. In certain cases there could be an immediate need for circumcision.

Peyronie ‘s disease

Peyronie’s disease is a condition that develops scar tissue under the penile skin. Symptoms include:

  • a bent or curved penis
  • hard lumps
  • painful erections
  • soft erections
  • having trouble with sex because of a bent or curved penis

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), Peyronie ‘s disease has been diagnosed in around 1 in 100 men in the United States over the age of 18.

Treatment: Nonsurgical procedures include , oral medications, and medicinal therapies for this disorder. For more serious cases, surgery may be necessary.

Home remedies

An individual can try several home treatments to reduce swollen penis symptoms. The efficacy of these will depend on the underlying cause.

  • Abstinence: People can avoid sexual intercourse and masturbation until the pain goes away, as such activity could worsen symptoms.
  • Hygiene: A person can stop the use of heavily-perfumed hygiene products, such as bubble bath lotion or harsh soaps. They can instead opt for a mild or non-perfumed soap to reduce the risk of skin irritation.
  • Ice pack: Ice packs can relieve swelling, but a person should not place it directly on the skin. Instead, they can wrap a bag of frozen vegetables in a clean towel and gently place this on the swollen area.

Prevention

Usually, warm water is all it takes to wash the penis and the inside of the foreskin to help avoid a tight foreskin and any associated swelling. People may use soap, but this is supposed to be gentle and perfume free.

Someone who practices more safe sex will reduce the probability of developing a STI, which can cause a swollen penis. People should also be careful during sexual intercourse, and ensure that there is sufficient lubrication.

When to see a doctor

People should see a doctor as soon as there is a penis injury, or if they have an erection that lasts longer than 4 hours. A swollen penis will most of the time be repairing itself. Complications of this condition can, however, result in serious injury.

Summary

A swollen penis has many causes and most of them are easy to handle. However, early diagnosis is crucial to ensure that a person receives the necessary medical treatment at the earliest opportunity.

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