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Phimosis is a condition of the penis that occurs in some adults and children who aren’t circumcised. If you have phimosis, your foreskin can’t be pulled back (retracted). It may look like your penis has rings around the tip.

Having phimosis isn’t necessarily a problem. It only becomes a problem when it causes symptoms. This could be when phimosis is severe and leaves an opening the size of pinhole.

Actually, there are two types of phimosis: physiologic and pathologic. The physiologic type is associated with childhood and usually resolves as you age. The pathologic type is associated with a condition called balanitis xerotica obliterans (BXO).

Phimosis is found in virtually all newborns, and then the foreskin changes gradually so that it can be pulled back. It’s estimated that only 1% of people still have phimosis when they’re 16 years old.


Someone with phimosis may have the following symptoms:
  • Redness or discoloration, which may occur when infected/irritated.
  • Swelling (inflammation), which may occur when infected/irritated.
  • Soreness.
  • Pain while urinating (dysuria).
  • Pain with erections or with sexual activity.

Causes of this condition

Phimosis can occur naturally. It’s unclear why it occurs in some boys but not others. The condition can also occur if the foreskin is forcibly retracted before it’s ready. This can harm the skin and cause scarring, making it more difficult to retract the foreskin later on.

Inflammation or an infection of the foreskin or the head of the penis (glans) may cause phimosis in boys or men. Balanitis is an inflammation of the glans. It’s sometimes the result of poor hygiene or an infection of the foreskin.