What are phimosis and paraphimosis?

Also known as: Physiological phimosis, pathological phimosis

A normal uncircumcised male penis has a foreskin/prepuce that can be retracted over the end/tip of the penis. With phimosis the foreskin cannot be retracted.

In physiological phimosis which occurs naturally in the new born baby, the skin cannot be retracted because of adhesions between the inside lining of the foreskin and the tip of the penis. 10% of infants will have physiological phimosis at age 3 years which disappears as the attachments dissolve over time.

Pathological phimosis results from small tears at the tip of the foreskin when it's forcibly retracted or from poor hygiene and infections which lead to scarring of the foreskin.

Paraphimosis is a related condition where the foreskin of an uncircumcised or partially circumcised penis gets stuck behind the head of the penis. This can be a medical emergency as it first prevents blood leaving the penis causing it to swell which then prevents needed blood getting into the penis. This can lead to severe damage and even amputation of the head of the penis.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 1/29/2019 3:21:13 PM

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