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My foreskin is too tight

A very common penis problem indeed. It's called phimosis and it looks like this:


There are several consequences of this: the foreskin won't retract back over the glans, which can make masturbation and intercourse uncomfortable; it's impossible to clean under the glans so smegma will build up; the tightness of the foreskin leads to considerable discomfort when the penis is erect - as you can see in the second picture; and it looks unsightly. Estimates of the frequency of phimosis among uncircumcised men range from 1% who can't retract their foreskin at all to 8% who can only retract it partially.

Before looking at the causes of phimosis, however, it's important to remember that a baby boy's foreskin won't retract because his foreskin and glans have not separated - this is normal and nothing needs to be done about it. By the age of 8 or so his foreskin should be retractable, though in some boys the separation of foreskin and glans that allows the free movement of foreskin over glans doesn't happen until adolescence. It's only then that a diagnosis of phimosis can be made.

There are one or two possible reasons why an teenage boy or man might have a phimosis (a phemotic penis).

The first is simply that he was born with a penis that has a smaller than average foreskin opening, or one that didn't grow as it should have. In either case, the foreskin opening is made of normal skin but it's not elastic enough to stretch and allow the glans of the penis through the opening when the foreskin is pulled backwards. This can be cured in several ways. The simplest is by manually stretching the foreskin with a finger or two during masturbation. This sounds slightly ridiculous, but it can work. Here is an excellent website on the subject of penile phimosis. 

And here is an explanation of how phimosis of the penis may be cured by stretching.

Another possible cure for phimosis can be found at This website offers for sale a surgical instrument which you can use to stretch the opening of your foreskin at home. 

In the past, doctors have often recommend circumcision as a cure for phimosis - and, while it works, it is rather a dramatic solution to the problem. A more gentle approach is the preputial slit technique, in which a surgeon makes a small cut on the back of the foreskin to effectively widen the opening, thereby allowing the foreskin to move freely over the glans penis. See this website for more information on alternatives to circumcision.

In those cases where phimosis is caused by remaining adhesions between glans and foreskin, the use of a steroid cream can be very helpful in achieving full foreskin mobility. This gentle cure respects the penis and maintains the integrity of its sexually sensitive tissue. The reference immediately above has information on this treatment option.

A second major reason why phimosis develops is a fungal infection of the glans and/or foreskin called Balanitis Xerotica Obliterans or BXO for short (also known as Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus or LSA for short). This causes the normally elastic skin of the foreskin to change into tight fibrous tissue:

The Circumcision Information Resource Page has lots of information on various cures for BXO which avoid sacrificing the foreskin with circumcision.

Finally, in some rare cases, when a tight foreskin is forced back over the glans penis, it gets stuck there. This is a potentially serious condition, since the tight phimotic ring can cut off the blood supply to the glans. This is known as paraphimosis, but there are some simple ways of dealing with it - apart from calling the emergency room, which may be necessary in the worst cases!

Here is a picture of paraphimosis, after the foreskin has swollen because of the tight ring of phimotic tissue. Eventually the decreased blood supply leads to the penile tissue turning black and necrotic (i.e. it's dead).

Here is a website which explains what to do if your penis or a penis belonging to anyone you know gets into this unfortunate situation.


Other pages of penis problems

My penis is too large / too small
My foreskin is too tight
Problems with arousal
I can't get an erection
Urethral opening abnormal
Torn frenulum - breve
My penis is twisted
Erectile dysfunction
Penis problems solved!
Andropause & mid-life crisis
Penile problems & injuries
Yeast Infections
Sex addiction & obsession
Sexually transmitted infections
Testosterone declines with age

Other sections on the site

The penis, masculinity and sex
A Cultural History Of The Penis
Penile & Other Problems