What is paraphimosis?

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Paraphimosis in children: Overview

Paraphimosis (say "pair-uh-fy-MOH-suss") is a problem with the skin on your child's penis. The skin that folds over the penis (foreskin) gets tight and sticks behind the head of the penis. If your child can't return the foreskin to its normal place over the head of the penis, this is a medical emergency.

This only happens in someone who still has their foreskin.

This problem needs to be treated right away. If it's not treated, the penis will swell. Blood to the head of the penis may be cut off. This can damage the penis. And it can be very painful.

Your doctor probably reduced the swelling and put the foreskin in its normal place. Your doctor may have done surgery if the problem was severe.

Your doctor may suggest that your child be circumcised. This can prevent the problem from happening again.

Paraphimosis

Paraphimosis is a condition in which the skin that normally covers the penis—the foreskin—is tight when it is pulled back and then can't be returned to its normal position over the head of the penis. If not corrected, the penis will swell, and the blood flow to the head of the penis may be cut off, damaging the tissue. It's important to get medical treatment right away.

Paraphimosis can only occur when someone is uncircumcised. In infants and young children, it usually results from having the foreskin pulled back too much while cleaning the penis. In teens and adults, risk factors include having a tight foreskin, sexual activity, not putting the foreskin back in place after cleaning or urinating, and genital piercing.

Treatment may include pain control, reducing the swelling, and if necessary, surgery (including circumcision).

How can you care for your child who has paraphimosis?

  • Do not pull back the foreskin for a week or until your doctor says it's okay.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your child has surgery, follow the directions you are given.
  • If your child has small tears in the foreskin, your doctor may have you apply an antibiotic cream to the area. You may also be asked to watch for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, pain, or drainage.

Prevention

  • Clean your child's penis every day, carefully washing the whole area with warm water. Or if your child is older, have your child wash the area carefully. For the first week, only wash the outside of the penis.
  • After a week, you can gently pull the foreskin back while washing the area. Pull it back only as far as it will go. Carefully wash the entire area with warm water. After washing, return the foreskin to its normal position.
  • Teach your child how to pull back the foreskin and return it to its normal position. Some children as young as 3 can be taught to do this.

Paraphimosis: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • The foreskin is stuck behind the head of the penis.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in the penis.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.