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Phimosis is not life threatening, but the symptoms are uncomfortable. Treatments include:

  • Topical steroid for phimosis without scarring
  • Surgical removal of the foreskin (circumcision)

Figure 1 shows the decision-making process for treating phimosis. If your child has scarring from an earlier injury, circumcision is needed. If no scarring is present, your child might be able to use a steroid cream or ointment to loosen the tight foreskin.

Fig. 1: Decision-making process for treating phimosis.
Fig. 1: Decision-making process for treating phimosis.

Topical steroid

For boys who have phimosis without scarring, a steroid cream or ointment applied directly to the foreskin often works well. Your doctor will show you how to apply the ointment to the tight skin.

The ointment softens the foreskin when used every day for 4–8 weeks. Your doctor will also show you how to massage and manually stretch the foreskin. Once the foreskin can be pulled all the way back, use of the ointment can be stopped. This treatment has few or no side effects.

Circumcision

Sometimes treatment with a topical steroid does not work. In that case, the doctor may recommend circumcision.