Phimosis is a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot stretch to allow it to be pulled back past the glans. A balloon-like swelling under the foreskin may occur with urination. In teenagers and adults, it may result in pain during an erection, but is otherwise not painful. Those affected are at greater risk of inflammation of the glans, known as balanitis, and other complications.
In young children, it is normal not to be able to pull back the foreskin at all. Over 90% of cases resolve by the age of seven, although full retraction is still prevented by preputial adhesions in over half at this age. 99% of cases resolve by age 16. Occasionally, phimosis may be caused by an underlying condition such as scarring due to balanitis or balanitis xerotica obliterans. This can typically be diagnosed by seeing scarring of the opening of the foreskin.
Typically, it resolves without treatment by the age of three. Efforts to pull back the foreskin during the early years of a young male's life should not be attempted. For those in whom the condition does not improve further, time can be given or a steroid cream may be used to attempt to loosen the tight skin. If this method, combined with stretching exercises, is not effective, then other treatments such as circumcision may be recommended. A potential complication of phimosis is paraphimosis, where the tight foreskin becomes trapped behind the glans. The word is from the Greek φίμωσις phimōsis meaning "muzzling".