Recognizing the symptoms and acting quickly is key to successfully treating your balanitis
When it comes to balanitis symptoms there are three crucial things to keep in mind:
- 1. Catching the symptoms early increases your chances of interrupting the balinitis cycle of damage
- 2. Acting on these symptoms quickly increases your chances of permanently curing your balanitis
- 3. Knowing how these symptoms can be misleading can help you prevent your balanitis from getting worse
Catching the symptoms early
Although the most obvious symptom of balanitis is an inflamed glans, the way this symptom presents itself may be different for each person and not always easy to catch.
During the early stages of balanitis, the inflammation may simply appear as a red discoloration on the glans or foreskin. While the discoloration may be visually noticeable, it may not cause any pain or discomfort. This is one of the best times to treat your balanitis since it hasn't progressed into an all out flare-up.
As the balanitis progresses, the symptoms may begin to evolve into more severe forms.
Advanced signs of balanitis include:
- Increased redness of the glans or foreskin
- Tissue erosions that are raw to the touch
- Rash-like appearance on the glans surface
- Foul smell or discharge from penis
- Pain, itching or burning of the foreskin or glans
On the surface these symptoms seem no worse than typical skin irritation that might heal itself if given enough time. In fact, when confronted with these symptoms, wait-and-see is the most common approach employed by balanitis sufferers. However, understanding what's truly happening under the surface exposes a much different picture of these seemingly "harmless" symptoms.
What do these symptoms mean?
The presence of these symptoms shows that your immune system is actively fighting a threat to your penile tissue. It is your body's way of vigorously trying to eliminate the threat, whether it is a microbe, a chemical irritant or physical trauma. This immune system attack continues until the trigger that activated the attack has gone.
Unfortunately, despite our immune system's best effort, our body isn't always successful at permanently eliminating the cause of the inflammation. That's why it is so important to limit the tissue damage by helping your body neutralize the underlying trigger effectively.
If you suffer from balanitis, it is crucial to provide your penile tissue with a wide variety of therapeutic substances so that no matter what the cause of the immune system attack, your body is able to overcome it completely.
Acting on these symptoms quickly
Did you know that the average balanitis sufferer waits several months to years before seeing a urologist about their condition? Most of these cases start out mild and progress to the severe stages where the balanitis begins to actively interfere with the patient's daily life.
This is because most patients either fail to recognize their symptoms until advanced stages or simply use a wait-and-see approach to see if the symptoms will subside on their own.
Both these approaches mean that the sufferer's health is at the mercy of how their balanitis will progress. If clinical studies are any indication, most of these patients would have been well advised to act on their symptoms as soon as they were noticed.
This has two major benefits:
- First, it leaves nothing to chance and ensures that your balanitis does not progress to an advanced stage where a visit to a urologist or a prescription medication is required.
- Second, it prevents permanent penile tissue damage and increases your chances of completely curing your balanitis.
How balanitis symptoms can be misleading
Even though the most common balanitis symptoms are easy to notice and crucial for identifying the problem, they can also be deceiving and lead you into a false sense of relief.
There are 4 ways how balanitis symptoms can misguide your treatment efforts:
Lower intensity of pain does not mean lower risk of damage
- We are often lead to believe that the milder our balanitis symptoms, the lesser damage our penile tissue is experiencing. This is actually misleading and often the reason why many balanitis sufferers delay treatment in the beginning of their flare-ups.
The intensity of your symptoms has more to do with your immune system's response than how much damage is occurring in your glans tissue.
When your glans or foreskin is confronted by a trigger (microbe, chemical, injury), there is a small window during which this trigger can carry out its damage without the involvement of your immune system. When this damage reaches a tipping point, the immune system is activated and your body launches a violent inflammatory response.
If your balanitis were treated closer to the window of opportunity before the immune system attack was in full swing, you would only need to eliminate the initial trigger. However, once you are in the middle of a full blown immune attack, you now have to deal with both
the underlying trigger and
the immune attack - a much harder task.
It's ironic that balanitis patients are least likely to treat their problem when it is at its most treatable stage.
Remember, don't let mild symptoms fool you into a false sense of security when it comes to balanitis. As soon as you become aware of your condition, take prompt action to stem the damage process in its tracks. Those who wait-and-see often wait-and-find out that their balanitis was worse than their symptoms lead on. No matter how mild your symptoms, treat your balanitis properly.
Absence of symptoms does not mean absence of damage (Silent Damage)
- Balanitis has a tendency to cause changes to penile tissue that linger on even after the visible symptoms have subsided.
For example, one common side effect of balanitis is that it strips your glans of its protective moisture barrier. This barrier is crucial for shielding the mucosal surface from common irritants. Even when the balanitis flare-up subsides, the lack of this protective barrier leaves your penile tissue vulnerable to common irritants and causes the glans tissue to experience continued damage.
Even in the absence of symptoms, balanitis finds a way to leave the door open to future flare-ups.
The building blocks of balanitis damage often go into place well before the inflammation actually occurs. While your first flare-up may be triggered by an external cause, your future flare-ups may simply result from the loss of healthy penile physiology caused by the first attack.
Remember, even if you are in between flare-ups, it is a good idea to maintain healthy penile physiology
and prevent your next bout of balanitis.
Symptoms can appear in non-glans regions
- Our glans and foreskin contain a high density of nerve endings and blood vessels. These vessels traverse through nearby areas that contain other organs. Quite often inflammation from balanitis can activate nerves in these neighboring regions and mislead you into thinking that your pain is something other than balanitis. This is called referred pain and during balanitis this pain can be referred to areas such as the bladder, groin, testicles, perineal region and even the rectum.
If you suffer from balanitis, always evaluate your supposed "non-balanitis" symptoms around the penile region with this fact in mind.
If you are consulting a physician, inform them of your previous balanitis episodes since this will give them a better idea of what may be happening. What you may think is bladder pain from a urinary infection may very well be your balanitis misleading you.
The hide-and-seek of balanitis symptoms
- Our glans is not a stand-alone organ. It is a functional unit of the penis and our glans tissue is a continuation of the tissue from the rest of the penis. Also, the penis is in close proximity to many other organs that depend on its healthy function.
In short, the glans is just one part of a continuum of organs that help you perform your urinary and sexual functions.
This also has a major downside.
An issue with any particular organ in this region can spill over into other nearby organs. For example, infections that start on the foreskin can move up the urethra, into the bladder and even up to the kidneys. Similarly, inflammation from the glans can eventually lead to an inflammation of the epididymis (tract that carries sperm).
This process can even occur in reverse.
Inflammation in your prostate can eventually lead to inflammation of the urethra and the impeded urine flow can lead to a urinary tract infection and balanitis.
What's even stranger is that these symptoms can go back and forth where inflammation in one area can eventually lead to inflammation in the other and then return to the original area.
Take for instance a bacterial infection that causes inflammation in your glans (balanitis) only to spread to your prostate (bacterial prostatitis) and then return to your glans again. Your balanitis symptoms may disappear initially from antibiotic use, however bacterial prostatitis is known to be resistant to antibiotics and once your antibiotic regimen is over, the bacteria may be reintroduced to your glans from the prostate itself.
This is not something that is unique to your prostate. Some bladder infections (interstitial cystitis) and kidney infections are also known to be resistant to antibiotic use. Strangely, organs near the glans (bladder, kidneys, prostate) are notorious for being bacterial safe havens that constantly reintroduce pathogens to your penile tissue.
This can lead to a hide-and-seek effect where nearby organs are constantly swapping bacteria and the sufferer is constantly chasing one problem after another.
In a nutshell, balanitis is a lot more deceptive than its symptoms may lead on. Millions of sufferers can attest to the fact that balanitis has a tendency to linger and constantly injure. If there is one thing to be learned from the symptoms, it is to treat them with the seriousness they deserve.