Conditions of the Penis

There are many conditions of the penis that can cause functional and performance issues. Some of these conditions can be present from birth as a defect, and others can occur or begin at any time in the male’s life span.

This is a list of numerous conditions that affect the penis.

  • Balanitis. This condition causes inflammation of the glans of the penis, or head of the penis. In cases where the foreskin is also inflamed, it is called balanoposthitis. Symptoms of this condition include penile pain, itching, swelling, a penile rash, and strong odoriferous discharge that comes from the penis. The most common cause of this condition is poor hygiene in those males who are uncircumcised. If the penis is not cleaned correctly underneath the foreskin, the body’s sweat, bacterium, debris, and dead skin cells can build up, thusly causing more severe inflammation.
    • If the male has phimosis, or foreskin that is difficult to retract, and cannot clean this area, the risk of inflammation grows by fifty percent.
    • Other causes of balanitis include yeast infections or sexually transmitted diseases. If this type of infection is present, a prescription medication or anti fungal medication may be needed to help control. If recurrent infections are common, circumcision may be the male’s best option.
  • Epispadias. This condition begins with a rare birth defect that causes the urethra to not develop fully. This results in an inability to pass urine from the body correctly. This condition can affect both males and females. In males, the urethral opening opens instead on the side of the penis or can be open in places down the penile shaft.
    • Signs and symptoms of epispadias in males include an abnormal opening in the urethra, a wide pubic bone, an abnormally shaped or curved penis, reflux nephropathy- or backward flow of urine into the kidneys, urinary incontinence, and urinary tract infections. These cases can range from mild to severe, with mild cases requiring a minor surgery, and severe cases possibly requiring multiple surgeries and corrections.
    • The goals of the treatment are to help to maximize basic function and urinary output, along with creating a “normal” looking penis. In some severe cases, the bladder is also involved, and surgical intervention may be required to help create a path for the urine to flow from the bladder. The two most common surgical techniques for this are the Cantwell and Mitchell techniques.
  • Hypospadias. This birth defect that causes the opening of the urethra to develop on the underside of the penis, instead of on the tip. Hypospadias ranges from mild to severe cases, depending on where the opening forms. Some males are both with the opening in the middle of the shaft, or even at the base of the penis, and in rare cases, the opening can develop underneath the scrotum.
    • The signs and symptoms of hypospadias include an abnormal urethral opening, a downward curve of the penis, abnormal spraying during urination, and foreskin abnormalities that create a “hood” on the penis. This is a relatively common problem that has a solid diagnosis and treatment plan.
    • Many males who were born with this condition experience normal sexual function- if they received timely treatment. Surgical treatment involves repositioning the urethral openings and straightening the shaft of the penis when necessary. This surgery is best done early, from the ages of three months to eighteen months of age.
  • Penile Cancer. Cancer of the penis most often begins in the skin cells of the penis. The five basic types of penile cancer are: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, sarcoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Roughly ninety-five percent of all cancers of the penis start from squamous cells. This type of cancer cells grows slowly and can most often be cured if found early as a carcinoma in situ, or CIS- which is the earliest stage of squamous penile cancer.
    • Melanoma and basal cell carcinoma make up less than two percent of penile cancers, and sarcoma and adenocarcinoma, or Paget disease, are much rarer.
    • Penile cancer must be treated. If found and treated early, the penis can be saved. However, if the cancer has spread into the deep tissues of the penis, a penectomy, or removal of part or the entire penis, must be performed by a surgeon.
  • Peyronie’s Disease. Peyronie’s Disease is a penis condition that develops when plaque, or scar tissue, forms inside of the penis. This causes erections to be curved and painful. While most men have a slight curve to their penis that results in no problem- Peyronie’s curvature leads to extreme pain, sexual dysfunction, and can make intercourse impossible.
    • Signs and symptoms of Peyronie’s disease include scar tissue that can be felt under the skin of the penis, a major bend or curve of the penis, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, pain in the penis, and an overall shortening of the penis.
    • Some cases of Peyronie’s disease are mild and do not cause problems. In these cases, treatment is not necessary. In some cases, this condition can also improve itself or go away on its own without treatment.
    • If you have a penile curve or pain in your penis that causes issues with sexual function or intercourse, do not wait to discuss this with your doctor. They may route you to prescription medications, have the scar tissue directly injected with medication, or have surgery to attempt to correct the Peyronie’s disease.
  • Phimosis and para-phimosis. Phimosis is a condition that hinders the foreskin from being retracted on the penis. Para-phimosis is the condition that makes repositioning the foreskin extremely difficult or impossible. These conditions can occur in any male with intact foreskin, at any stage or age of life. This is a common condition in infant males because at birth the foreskin is tight, but over time, loosens. If the foreskin cannot be maneuvered or retracted by the time they are in their late childhood, treatment may be needed.
    • Treatments for these conditions include steroid creams, or circumcision if the creams do not help.
    • Symptoms of para-phimosis include the inability to return the foreskin to the normal position, difficulty with urination, painful or difficult ejaculation, discoloration of the skin, or bruising of the penis. In some cases, swelling of the penis may also occur. This condition can turn in to an emergency situation, so should always be evaluated by a doctor. Treatment for this includes circumcision, manipulating and lubricating the foreskin to help with repositioning, or making a small incision in the foreskin to reduce the swelling or any bulging.
  • Priapism. This condition is noted with a persistent erection that lasts longer than four hours and is not relieved or reduced by orgasm. These types of erections can be extremely painful and can occur with or without pleasureful stimulation. The most common causes for priapism are medications, alcohol, and drug abuse- like cocaine or methamphetamine. Some spinal cord issues and certain blood diseases can also trigger this condition.
    • Priapism is considered a medical emergency– especially for those erections lasting longer than four hours. Seek treatment immediately in an emergency room to help to get the erection under control.
    • Treatment for priapism involves draining the blood from the penile shaft. Some medications that help to shrink blood vessels may also be tried. In rare instances, surgery may be required to correct the problem and prevent future damage to the penis and function.

If you suspect you may be dealing with any type of penile condition or you have been diagnosed with a penis condition, never hesitate to discuss your treatment plan or options with your medical care team, or urology specialist.

Resources Used:

Reclaiming Intimacy



Mayo Clinic

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