What medical options are there for treating phimosis?
Steroid creams – these may help to soften the skin and make it easier to stretch the foreskin. Usually, they are applied twice a day to the tip of the foreskin, for a period of four to eight weeks.
What to expect with steroid creams – after two weeks, you should be able to start gradually stretching the foreskin once a day. You should only do this after being shown how by a doctor. You should do this gently to avoid damaging the foreskin. Research has shown that this form of treatment is often successful at first. For example, one study showed that the use of a steroid cream in children was 84% successful. However, the use of a steroid cream often needs to be repeated and is not always a permanent solution.
Full circumcision – this a procedure where the foreskin is surgically removed, has become popular for the treatment of phimosis, particularly if the condition is caused by scarring. However, it can cause bleeding or lead to infections. It is usually considered as a last resort but may often be the most effective treatment option.
How does circumcision work? – circumcision is carried out under general anaesthetic, but in some cases may be able to be performed under local anaesthetic instead. Men are often worried that the procedure will mean they won’t be able to feel much during sexual intercourse. However, many studies have shown that circumcision doesn’t affect sexual satisfaction. Possible complications of circumcision, include:
Partial circumcision – this has recently been shown to be an effective method for the treatment of phimosis. Plus, some people find it cosmetically more favourable as it almost completely preserves the foreskin. The procedure usually works the first time and only needs to be redone for 3.3% of people. It is also safe and simple.
In men who have had a complete circumcision, there is often a complaint of dryness and preservation of the foreskin prevents this. Therefore, partial circumcision helps to prevent this problem.
Preputioplasty – this is a less radical procedure compared to circumcision and may be more beneficial in children. The procedure involves making incisions at the tip of the foreskin, exposing the head of the penis. However, the procedure has little success in adults.