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Am Fam Physician. 2000;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.

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