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The foreskin is a double-layered skin fold that in most cases partially covers the head of the penis (the glans). As a male grows up, the foreskin usually loosens and detaches from any attachment sites to the glans. 

In adulthood, the foreskin is normally loose enough to be fully retracted. In this case, the glans (including its root) should be fully exposed. During erection, the foreskin retracts by itself, exposing the entire glans or at least part of it.

The aim is to detect foreskin tightness (phimosis) in childhood or at young age (e.g. at the maternity clinic, in school healthcare or during military service), as it increases the risk of inflammations, complicates sex life and may cause scarring due to repeated tears.

Self-care

If you cannot retract the foreskin to expose the glans, you can try to relieve the tightness by stretching the foreskin gently. Stretching involves rubbing the foreskin and pulling it back with fingers as far as it moves easily without causing pain. A general-purpose cream or lotion should be applied to the glans and the foreskin before stretching.

When should you seek treatment?

If the situation doesn’t improve after stretching the foreskin daily for a month or if you cannot stretch it at all without pain, contact a healthcare professional.

Treatment

Foreskin tightness is usually treated by means of circumcision (removal of the foreskin). This is a surgical procedure performed under local anaesthesia as day surgery at hospital. It does not require an overnight stay. After the procedure, some measures need to be taken at home for a few days.

Information sources:
The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim: Terveysportti, Lääkärin tietokanta database

FSHS General Practitioner / 23 September 2019

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