What Is Paraphimosis?

Paraphimosis is a medical condition in which the foreskin of the penis is trapped behind the glans and can't return to its original position, leading to lack of blood flow.
What Is Paraphimosis?
Nelton Abdon Ramos Rojas

Written and verified by the doctor Nelton Abdon Ramos Rojas.

Last update: 04 August, 2022

Paraphimosis is a condition in which the foreskin of the penis adopts an abnormal anatomical disposition. The foreskin is a fold of skin that extends over the tip of the penis, also known as the glans, and covers it.

When a patient has paraphimosis, the foreskin is trapped behind the glans and can’t return to its original position. It’s a medical urgency, since the penile blood can’t drain to the bloodstream.

It’s important not to confuse paraphimosis with phimosis. The latter condition refers to excess skin that prevents full retraction. Phimosis is physiological in infants. However, it normally goes away with time and normal retraction.


Why Does it Occur?

A man looking at his penis.

Paraphimosis occurs when the foreskin leads to decreased blood flow to the penis.

Several things can cause it:

  • Incomplete development (as is the case of babies),
  • Forced foreskin retraction that forms a fibrous scar,
  • A tight foreskin,
  • Incomplete circumcision,
  • Penile trauma,
  • Infection caused by poor hygiene or a foreign body (a piercing), etc.

This article may interest you: Risk Factors of Perinatal Asphyxia

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Paraphimosis?

Obviously, the inability to pull back the foreskin is the key sign. The patient experiences pain and swelling whenever they try to do so. If the condition persists for a few hours, the blood collects and the skin turns bluish due to hindered blood flow.

However, since it’s a very obvious issue, doctors often treat it in time. It’s rare for a patient to go to the emergency room with advanced gangrene because this condition is extremely painful.

The diagnosis is very simple since a physical examination of the penis will suffice. Since they don’t require any other test, they can start treatment immediately. A physical examination allows for a reliable diagnosis.

Treatment of Paraphimosis

A man with paraphimosis.

The treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. If it’s caught early, manual manipulation of the swollen foreskin tissue will probably suffice.

To facilitate the process, doctors administer painkillers. You may also apply ice to the swollen area. If the swelling doesn’t subside, a specialist can extract the blood with a fine needle or by creating a pressure gradient that facilitates the drainage of the blood.

In addition, doctors may make a small slit in the foreskin to free it. This procedure is known as a”dorsal slit,” as it releases the foreskin and allows it to return to its original position.

However, if the condition is more severe, the patient may require surgery. Circumcision is a surgical technique which aims to remove the foreskin.

By removing the skin that’s covering the glans, paraphimosis can’t occur again. However, they must make sure that the foreskin is completely gone to prevent scars from forming after surgery.

In addition, if the patient has an infection, they may administer antibiotics as soon as possible. In the worst case scenario, if the infection is widespread, the pus will need to be drained and an antibiotic ointment will have to be applied.

The prognosis is excellent if the condition is caught in time. If you’re suffering from any discomfort, we recommend you go to the emergency room to get checked out as soon as possible. Time is of the essence when it comes to this condition.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.