Phimosis and paraphimosis

Tight foreskin

Phimosis is the inability to pull back foreskin over the head of the penis; paraphimosis is the inability to return it


Phimosis is the inability to retract foreskin over the glans penis (the head). It isn't a problem unless it leads to pain or swelling. These problems become more obvious during sex or when you get an erection.

Paraphimosis is when the retracted foreskin cannot return to its usual position. As a result, the glans can become painful and swollen.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of phimosis and paraphimosis icon plus

    For most men, tight foreskins do not lead to problems. If they do, symptoms can include:

    • foreskin pain or swelling
    • acute urine retention
    • ballooning of the foreskin when passing urine (phimosis only)

    Boys cannot fully retract their own foreskin before the age of 5. Some may not be able to do so until the age of 10.

  • Screening and diagnosis icon plus

    Your GP or consultant will discuss your symptoms with you to make a diagnosis. They will mostly likely take a medical history. And they may carry out a physical examination of your penis and foreskin. Additional tests can also be carried out, including general blood tests, urine tests and foreskin swabs.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Your consultant will discuss your treatment options, which will depend upon the nature of your problem. These options might include steroid creams or mild analgesics. Circumcision for reuccuring paraphimosis may also be an option.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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