Dec 15, 2000 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Paraphimosis: What It Is and How to Prevent It

Am Fam Physician. 2000 Dec 15;62(12):2628.

See related article on paraphimosis.

What is paraphimosis?

Paraphimosis (say: para-fim-oh-sus) is a serious condition that can only happen in men and boys who haven't been circumcised. Paraphimosis means the foreskin is stuck behind the head of the penis and can't be pulled back down into a normal position.

What causes paraphimosis?

Uncircumcised men sometimes pull the foreskin back during sex, when they go to the bathroom or when they clean their penis. Doctors and nurses might pull the foreskin back when they examine the penis or put in a catheter.

Sometimes you, a doctor or a nurse might forget to pull your foreskin back down. If the foreskin is left behind the head of the penis too long, it might swell so much that the foreskin is trapped behind it.

What can I do so I don't get paraphimosis?

  • After having sex, going to the bathroom or cleaning yourself, be sure to pull your foreskin back down to its natural position.

  • Never leave your foreskin behind the head of your penis for any longer than you need to.

  • If a catheter is put into your bladder, check afterward to be sure that your foreskin is covering the head of your penis.

What happens if I get paraphimosis?

Paraphimosis usually causes pain in your penis, but not always. You might get an infection in your penis. You might not be able to go to the bathroom at all. If you can't pull your foreskin over the head of your penis, you need to call your doctor right away.

The first thing your doctor will do is treat the swelling. This can be done by pressing your penis with a hand or by wrapping your penis in a tight bandage. After the swelling has gone away, your doctor should be able to pull the foreskin back down. If the foreskin remains stuck, your doctor might need to make a small cut in the trapped foreskin to loosen it.


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2000 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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