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Paraphimosis

By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 23 November 2022 & Updated on -

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Symptoms: Inability to pull the retracted foreskin back to its original position, swelling at the tip of the penis, general discomfort and pain, genital hypersensitivity, genital discolouration, and urinary blockage.
Causes: Genital Infections, physical trauma to the genitals, forced retraction of the foreskin, penile piercings, improper circumcision or other medical procedures, excessive sexual activity.
Risk Factors: Ageing, diabetes, catheterization
Severity: Mild to moderate
Which Doctor To Consult? Urologist

Overview

Paraphimosis is a genital condition that develops due to the foreskin being retracted over the tip of the penis. As such, it only occurs in uncircumcised males.

The forced retraction of the foreskin causes it to get stuck and become swollen, potentially inhibiting blood circulation in the affected area. Typically, paraphimosis occurs due to genital infections or physical trauma.

However, in several cases, mishandling of the male appendage during medical examinations can also cause this disease.

Note that paraphimosis is not the same as phimosis. The latter is a mild issue that affects children and involves the foreskin being unable to be retracted. Regardless, most children outgrow this problem as they age.

If left untreated, paraphimosis can lead to severe penile damage and may require surgical removal of the affected region.

When to Consult a Doctor?

1. On Observation of Symptoms

Most often, the symptoms of paraphimosis is preceded by general pain and forced retraction of the foreskin.
This will gradually progress into the other related clinical markers like penile inflammation, discolouration of urine and urinary blockage. As such, it is critical to consult a urologist when the initial signs begin to manifest.

2. Medical History of Phimosis as a Child

Phimosis is relatively common in male children. The condition is mild and generally goes away with age. However, it can indicate tightness in the foreskin. As they age, this issue can persist and develop into paraphimosis in adulthood.

While both clinical problems differ from each other, the common underlying cause is a general tightness in the foreskin. Thus, male adults with a history of phimosis must consult a doctor at least once regarding the condition.

3. Regular Screening

Frequent visits to a general physician or a urologist can help in the pre-emptive identification of the first symptoms of paraphimosis. However, a few general examinations may not involve a clinical genital inspection. Thus, it is critical to proactively relay any information regarding the issue to a doctor.

Diagnosis

General Physical Examination

Due to paraphimosis being an external physical condition, no advanced tests are required to diagnose the issue. Instead, affected individuals can opt for a general physical examination upon the manifestation of clinical indicators.

Once the doctor inspects the related area, he/she may ask additional questions regarding the symptoms to determine the severity of the issue.

Treatment

Home Care

Mild cases of paraphimosis may be treated using various home remedies. This includes using ice packs to reduce the swelling or tightly wrapping the penis with sterilized bandages.

Nonetheless, to prevent recurrent instances of the condition, it’s recommended to thoroughly clean the genitals and ensure that the foreskin is always in its natural position. Particular care must be taken after urination or sexual activity.

Medication: Depending on the cause, doctors may prescribe various drugs to paraphimosis patients. For instance, antibiotics can help if the issue is due to a bacterial infection.

However, in most cases, affected individuals may need to rely on general painkillers, nerve blockers, oral narcotics or anaesthetics to mitigate the associated discomfort.

Surgical Treatment: Since paraphimosis is usually a recurrent medical condition, the only way to prevent another instance is through circumcision. This eliminates the risk of the issue due to the surgical removal of the affected penile region.

In case, if circumcision is not suitable for a patient due to specific reasons, doctors may resort to hyaluronidase injections. These are enzymes that help reduce inflammation. Conversely, urologists may also drain the pus or built-up fluids through sterilized needles.

Another option is through dorsal slits. This emergency medical procedure involves making a single incision at the top of the foreskin to relieve any tightness in the area. Regardless, dorsal slits are only performed when the other mentioned surgical options are unsuitable for a patient.

Risks & Complications If Left Untreated

Ischemia (tissue damage): Genital or foreskin inflammation in paraphimosis patients directly inhibit blood circulation in the penis. As the problem progresses, the surrounding penile tissues are deprived of oxygen. Such complications can cause a condition known as ischemic cascade, which involves gradual tissue damage.

Moreover, the swelling in the foreskin may prevent an individual from cleaning the peripheral region, leading to the accumulation of bio-waste.

Necrosis (tissue death): Sudden restoration of blood circulation in the damaged penile tissues often causes additional problems, such as a reperfusion injury. In such cases, the ischemic tissues are overloaded with calcium ions and reactive oxygen particles, exacerbating the inflammation.

Subsequently, white blood cells destroy the damaged cells, leading to tissue death in the tip of the penis.

Penile Gangrene: More prominent cases of penile necrosis may cause gangrene. While this complication also involves general tissue death, its severity is much more pronounced.

In addition, affected individuals may observe pus-filled sacs in the related area or experience severe pain. There is also the risk of necrotic tissues slowly spreading to the peripheral genital areas, including the thighs and hips.

Severe Bacterial Infection: Regardless of whether a bacterial infection is the underlying cause of paraphimosis, the condition almost always leads to the growth of harmful microorganisms. This is primarily due to the inflamed foreskin preventing any conventional cleaning of the area.

Combined with the accumulation of residual urinary particles, the affected region becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. As a result, patients may suffer from severe infections that are also antibiotics resistant.

Permanent Penile Damage: Mild to moderate cases of paraphimosis do not usually lead to any permanent complications. However, if a patient delays treatment, this may cause the condition to become more severe, resulting in the foreskin being damaged.

As such, surgical options, such as circumcision or dorsal slits, can eliminate any recurrent instances of the issue. However, general external scarring will persist post-operation.

Penile Cancer: An additional complication related to paraphimosis is the accumulation of smegma (bio-waste in the male appendage). Such issues directly increase the risk of penile cancer. However, this is extremely rare in paraphimosis patients and is more often seen in cases of phimosis.

Additional Information

Prevalence of Paraphimosis: Paraphimosis is a rare condition. Several studies have established that only 0.2% of individuals aged between 4 months to 12 years suffer from the issue. Concurrently, for males over 16 years of age, paraphimosis is only observed in 1% of the general global population.

As such, other penile and foreskin-related problems are much more common. These include the following:

  • Priapism (persistent erection due to excessive blood flow circulation)
  • Peyronie's disease (growth of benign fibrous scar tissue)
  • Balanitis (similar inflammation in the foreskin)
  • Penile allergies
  • Erectile dysfunction

In a few cases, balanitis may be mistaken for paraphimosis. However, the former occurs due to poor genital hygiene or bacterial infections. As such, treatment for balanitis may not require surgical procedures.

Role of External Factors in Causing Paraphimosis: Specific individual choices, such as penile piercings or tattoos, significantly increase the risk of paraphimosis. Since such procedures involve the insertion of needles in the related area, they may lead to tissue damage or bacterial infections due to unsterilized equipment.

Thus, it is best to avoid opting for such aesthetic modifications. Nonetheless, for those determined to undergo such procedures, it is advisable to consult a urologist or a general physician to understand the associated risks.

Emergency Surgical Procedures for Treating Paraphimosis: While circumcision and dorsal slits are the most commonly performed surgical operations for treating paraphimosis, they may be ineffective in specific instances.

For example, surgical removal may be the only option if the condition has progressed significantly and caused widespread gangrene or penile cancer. In such cases, doctors perform a partial or complete penectomy (penis amputation). This procedure also involves the removal of the connecting lymph nodes alongside the male appendage.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Most cases of paraphimosis can be treated effectively if the condition is recognized quickly. Despite being a medical emergency, the issue is not a very severe one unless it is left untreated for a prolonged period. In such cases, surgical removal of the foreskin or a penectomy may be the only way to remedy the problem.

Circumcision is the surest way to eliminate the risk of paraphimosis. Since the condition occurs solely due to the existence of the foreskin, such surgical options are the most effective way to deal with the problem. For individuals who do not want to opt for such methods, ensuring that the foreskin remains in its original position alongside regular cleaning can help prevent recurrent instances of paraphimosis.

In some cases, surgical treatment for the condition can cause a sudden onset of bleeding post-operation. This typically happens due to forceful cleaning or mishandling of the operated area. Bacterial infection can also occur in some instances. Thus, it is best to avoid using excessive force on the area post-surgery and rely on antibiotic medications to mitigate the risk of infections.