The foreskin is the skin covering the head of the penis (glans). In most infants, the foreskin cannot be pulled back (retracted). This is due to the narrow opening at the tip of the foreskin and its attachment to the head of the penis. The inability to retract the foreskin at birth is called congenital phimosis. It is a normal condition.

As your child gets older, the opening of the foreskin widens. Also, the foreskin separates from the glans and it is possible to pull the foreskin back. In some children this occurs by age 3 to 5 years. In others, it may not occur until adolescence. This is normal. It is important that parents do not try to force the foreskin back. This can lead to injury and scarring.

Once the foreskin slides back and forth easily, infection or injury to the foreskin may cause it to get stuck in the forward position and cannot be retracted. This is called acquired phimosis. This condition requires treatment. Circumcision will treat and prevent recurrence of acquired phimosis. Non-surgical treatments are also available. Evaluation by a urologist is recommended to discuss the options.

Home care

  • If there are no symptoms, no special treatment is needed. Just wash the foreskin and penis daily when bathing. Do not try to force the foreskin back. Change diapers regularly.

  • If you were given a steroid cream, apply as directed.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider or the urologist (genital and urinary specialist) you have been referred to as directed.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain or swelling in the foreskin or penis

  • Pain or burning when passing urine

  • Partial (dribbling) or complete blockage in the flow of urine

  • Blood (pink or red) coming from the foreskin or seen in the urine

  • Inability to return a retracted foreskin to the normal position (this requires immediate attention)

  • You are worried about your son's penis or are unsure of the proper care