Whether you’re afraid of spreading your balanitis to someone else or you simply want to know if you can get it from another person, it is crucial to answer the question… Is balanitis contagious?
You’ll find a lot of conflicting answers online about whether balanitis can be spread from one person to another. Some sites claim that balanitis is nothing more than a penile rash and you don’t need to worry about spreading it, while others state that indeed it is contagious and can be transmitted from one person to another like an STD.
Here’s the truth…
Balanitis can be contagious and there are 5 things you
should know to protect yourself and others from it.
- The cause of your balanitis determines if it is contagious or not – Balanitis is an inflammation of the penile skin. This inflammation can be caused by 3 different things:
- Biological cause: Your balanitis could be triggered by a virus, fungus or bacteria that was exposed to your penile tissue and now is multiplying rapidly on the surface.
- Chemical cause: Since the penile surface lacks the protective top layer found elsewhere on our skin, it can be easily irritated by common consumer products such as soaps, detergents, creams, oils, perfumes, deodorants etc. Your penile tissue may be exposed to these substances incidentally or on purpose (washing your genitals with a harsh soap) and this may trigger a balanitis reaction.
- Physical cause: This happens when your sensitive penile surface experiences injury from rubbing against either an irritating surface (rough clothing surfaces) or from having a tight foreskin (phimosis) or from aggressive sexual/masturbatory habits. In other words, the penile skin is physically agitated by something and then has a rash-type response.
Of all of the causes,
if your balanitis has a biological cause then yes, it is contagious.
The lesson: If you don’t know what caused your balanitis, err on the side of caution and assume it is contagious to protect others. If you definitely know that it is caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus, then seek immediate treatment to protect yourself and your partner.
- If your balanitis is caused by an STD, you could spread it without having sex or even if you use protection – That’s right, many venereal diseases that cause balanitis don’t require actual intercourse to be spread to others. Take for instance consider HPV (human papillomavirus). Not only do 1 out of 4 have this sexually transmitted virus, it has been commonly associated with balanitis.
What is truly disturbing about HPV is that it is the leading cause of both penile cancer and cervical cancer. Even worse is that HPV is so contagious that it can be spread without even having unprotected sex. The virus is known to shed particles to parts of the body where casual skin-to-skin contact can spread it. For example, incidentally touching your genitals or the surrounding regions can keep the virus alive on your hands for hours where it can be further transmitted.
The lesson: A lot of people with balanitis assume that unprotected sex is the only way an infection can spread and this is simply not true.
- Even if your balanitis is not caused by an STD, it could be contagious – Most people assume that only balanitis caused by a sexually transmitted disease can spread to others -again not true. Remember, there are many types of penile infections that are not caused by STDs.
Take for instance, fungal and bacterial infections…
Balanitis can be caused by an infection from your body’s own bad bacteria spreading to your genitals.
Your balanitis could also be caused by your immune system weakening (from stress or another infection) and allowing fungus normally found on the skin to grow out of control and infect your penile tissue.
What’s important to know is that once you have these infections, they can be spread without sexual intercourse. For example, they can be spread through surface contamination (towels, toilet seats, clothing, hot tubs, etc).
The lesson: You could have developed balanitis from a bacteria or fungal infection and it can be spread to others through very casual means, such as sharing clothing or toilets or even the kitchen counter (if your hands are contaminated).
- Even if your balanitis symptoms go away, you could still be contagious – Yes, when it comes to balanitis, the symptoms are an extremely unreliable way of knowing if you have overcome the problem once and for all.
Consider genital herpes – an infection that is known to cause balanitis. After going through an acute flareup stage (where you might experience balanitis symptoms), it is known to go dormant for months at a time. During this time your balanitis symptoms may subside, however the person is still contagious and can spread the virus to others.
And this isn’t just the case with STDs…
Balanitis caused by bacterial infections can be tricky as well. It is known that in men, bacterial infections that affect the urinary tissue (including the penis) can often go into hiding deep into the prostate which acts as a safe harbor for the microbes shielding it from your immune system.
During this time your symptoms may subside and you may be lead to believe that your balanitis is gone for good. However, the bacteria can come surging back at any time and because there is usually a slight dellay between the bacteria infecting your penile tissue and appearance of symptoms, you may unknowingly spread the infection to your partner a few days before there are any signs of an infection.
The lesson: Don’t just rely on the symptoms to determine if you are still contagious. Take your balanitis be a warning sign to make sure you actively treat whatever the underlying cause rather than simply wait for it to “clear”.
- If you wait long enough, it could become contagious – In point #1 we mentioned that only biological causes of balanitis are contagious.
Yes this is true… but only partially.
It is true that if you have a viral, bacterial or fungal infection, you could spread it to someone else. However, here is what makes balanitis such an usual problem…
Even if your balanitis is not caused by a microbe,
ignoring it can eventually cause you to develop an infection (making you contagious.)
Here’s what typically happens during balanitis…
Since the glans (penile head) is exposed and lacks a tough outer layer, our body has devoted 4 soft defensive features to protect it:
- The moisture barrier – The glans surface produces oils that keep the surface moist and protect it from dryness and friction.
- The acid barrier – The pH of the glans is kept slightly acidic to prevent the growth of harmful microbes.
- The flora barrier – Just like our digestive tract, the glans surface supports healthy bacteria that constantly keep harmful bacteria in check.
- The lysozyme barrier – The surface of our glans is rich in an enzyme called lysozyme which has excellent antiseptic activity.
When you have balanitis, these crucial penile barriers begin to weaken. This triggers a domino effect where all of your penile defenses begin to slowly fail…
As a result, your penile tissue enters something known as The Balanitis Cycle of Damage…
Note, even if your balanitis is triggered by something simple such as a scratch or irritation from your soap, the initial inflammation can trigger a domino effect where you progressively lose the 4 penile barriers to the point where bacteria and fungi can cause an infection.
In other words, when it comes to balanitis, even small, non-contagious things can grow into something that is both dangerous and contagious.
The lesson: Never take your balanitis lightly. The best way to protect yourself is to act early, strengthen your penile tissue’s natural defenses and treat your balanitis in an effective way.