Phimosis and Paraphimosis in Children

Updated on June 15, 2020

Phimosis (aka a tight foreskin) can potentially occur at any time during life.  Nevertheless, both phimosis and paraphimosis are most common among younger boys. Phimosis refers to a condition where it is painful or impossible to retract the foreskin, whereas paraphimosis occurs secondary to phimosis, when the foreskin is retracted but cannot be returned to its natural position. Else, this could cause serious problems in the health of your little boy.

In both instances, the condition can cause major discomfort and affect normal blood flow in and around the penis. Paraphimosis is considered to be a medical emergency as the risk of preventing blood flow to the glans is high, and intervention should be sought to return the foreskin to its natural position. Various phimosis products for foreskin stretching are available, but it’s important to know when to seek help. However, before you even attempt to treat your son’s condition on your own, it’s best to seek the advice of a medical professional. One mistake, and you may only make the problem even worse. Learn about what it is by reading through below, then seek the help of your trusted pediatrician.

What Causes Phimosis in Children?

Both conditions are characterized by a tight foreskin, which can make it difficult or impossible for it to be retracted and/or returned comfortably. The opening of the foreskin has to be the right size. Unfortunately, in this case, it’s tighter than it should be. For younger children, this is common and perfectly normal – often the foreskin remains attached to the glans and cannot be retracted for many years. Around the time a boy reaches 16, it should be possible for the foreskin to be retracted fully and replaced to its normal position comfortably. Don’t make the mistake of forcing back the foreskin before it’s ready since this can also lead to phimosis.

There are no specific triggers or causes for phimosis in children – it is simply a developmental abnormality that is surprisingly common among young boys.

What Are the Symptoms of Phimosis?

Every case of phimosis is somewhat different, therefore the signs and symptoms of the condition can also be unique to the child.  The bottom line is if you sense any discomfort from your child in his genitals, then it’s best to have it checked by a medical professional. In all instances, however, several of the most common warning signs indicative of a tight foreskin include:

• Inability to retract the foreskin (partially) by the age of three

• Bulging of the foreskin when passing urine

• Pain and discomfort around the tip of the penis

• Swelling or discolouration of the tip of the penis when drawing back the foreskin

• Painful urination

• Bluish or darkish red color at the tip of the penis

• Reduced frequency of urination

One of the biggest problems with phimosis in children being that the child is unaware as to what is and isn’t normal. Depending on their age and developmental stage, they may not be able to tell their parents or caregivers when something is wrong. It is therefore important to keep an eye out for any signs of abnormality of the foreskin your child develops.

When Should I Consult with a Doctor?

Your child will undergo regular medical check-ups throughout the first few years of their life, so you can always ask your doctor to perform an examination for peace of mind. Otherwise, it’s a case of bringing the issue to the attention of a medical professional, like those from the Local Manchester Circumcision Clinic, the moment you suspect there is a problem. Your pediatrician will usually perform a more thorough physical examination, by which your concerns can also be addressed.

Phimosis and paraphimosis are conditions that are significantly easier to treat and correct when detected and addressed early. They also have a tendency to become more problematic and painful over time, so it’s important to act as quickly as possible.

How is Phimosis Diagnosed in a Child?

Along with a description of the potential signs and symptoms you have noted, your doctor will carry out a simple physical examination of the penis and the foreskin. This will provide a good indication as to whether there is an issue, along with the extent to which treatments may be required.

What Are the Available Treatment Options for Children?

The most appropriate treatment will be determined by the nature and severity of the case. There are various phimosis products for foreskin stretching on the market, which in many cases can eliminate the requirement for surgical intervention. Don’t purchase one by yourself, however. Bring this up first with your doctor so they can also help you out with the right product to purchase.

For example, your doctor may prescribe a steroid cream, which over the course of a few weeks could loosen the foreskin. There are also devices available to gently stretch the foreskin physically over time. Circumcision may be recommended, but is usually not be the only option available, and should only be considered as a last resort. or children that are above ten years old, surgery is the best choice. This is especially true for those children that still have bulging foreskin upon urination.

Speak to your child’s doctor for more information on the various treatments for phimosis.  


If you’re an expectant mom of a young boy, or if you’ve just given birth to a boy, it pays to know about possible problems that you could encounter with your little one. Two of these, as aptly discussed above, are phimosis and paraphimosis. 

As you now know, these are problems with the foreskin of your little one’s penis. Thankfully, many treatments are now available. So, if you feel as if your little one is going through problems with their genitals, you may want to visit your pediatrician to have this addressed immediately.

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