A tight foreskin should always be treated under the care of a qualified medical professional. The medical term for a foreskin that cannot be pulled back is phimosis. The medical term for foreskin that has been pulled back but then cannot be replaced is paraphimosis.
Young boys are born with physiologic phimosis. Their foreskin stays in place naturally at first. As the natural adhesions between the inner surface of the foreskin and the head of the penis dissolve over time, boys learn to retract the foreskin and pull it forward again as they explore their genitals. Usually, they are able to do so by age 7, but some boys need more time.
Pathologic phimosis happens in teenage boys and adult men. It can be caused by a naturally tight ring at the tip of the foreskin, poor hygiene, infection, or inflammation. Sometimes, paraphimosis occurs. This is similar to phimosis, except the foreskin cannot be pulled forward once it has been retracted.
Surgery may be needed if a child or adult has severe or persistent balanitis or balanoposthitis that causes their foreskin to be painfully tight. Circumcision may be considered if other treatments have failed, but it carries risks such as bleeding and infection. This means its usually only recommended as a last resort, although it can sometimes be the best and only treatment option. Alternatively, surgery to release the adhesions may be possible. This will preserve the foreskin but may not always prevent the problem recurring.
Also, it’s important to clean your penis regularly to avoid problems developing. You should:
- Gently wash your penis with warm water each day while having a bath or shower.
- Gently pull back your foreskin and wash underneath; don’t pull back the foreskin of a baby or young boy because it could be painful and cause harm.
- Use a mild or non-perfumed soap to reduce the risk of skin irritation.
- Avoid using talc and deodorants on your penis as they may cause irritation.
Circumcised men should also regularly clean their penis with warm water and a mild soap.