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Candidal balanitis (male yeast infection)

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Candidal balanitis is a common condition in men that causes the head of the penis to become inflamed. It is caused by candida, a very common yeast that can be found on our bodies. Typically it doesn’t cause any problems because it’s a very small amount however given the right setting, the yeast can multiply rapidly leading to an infection known as candidiasis (thrush).

In men, it can affect the penis and foreskin, causing candidal balanitis. About 1 in 25 men will develop candidal balanitis at some point in their life.

What are the symptoms of candida balanitis?

The most common symptom is an inflamed head of the penis which can be itchy and painful. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Thick discharge from under your foreskin
  • Bleeding around the foreskin
  • A foul odor
  • Problems pulling the foreskin back

Is candidal balanitis contagious?

Balanitis itself is not contagious; however, sexual partners can develop symptoms because fungi (yeast), bacteria and viruses can be transferred directly. It is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), although sex can instigate or aggravate it.

  • Balanitis that is caused by regular skin bacteria on the penis or by a chemical skin irritant is typically considered non-contagious
  • Balanitis can be transferred directly from person to person if it is caused by a particular fungi, and/or specific bacteria or virus (those that cause STDs such as gonorrhea are included)
  • The actual disease balanitis typically is not transferred to other males; however, the organisms causing balanitis can potentially be transferred
  • Balanitis may be considered "contagious" under special circumstances, for example, balanitis caused by STIs as some of the bacteria, fungi, or viruses that cause it are contagious

What causes candidal balanitis?

Candida is usually harmless and can often be found living on the skin and inside the body in areas like the mouth and gut in small amounts. It thrives in warm damp conditions and can multiply very fast if given the right environment which can lead to it quickly getting out of control. The most common cause of candida balanitis is poor personal hygiene in uncircumcised men.

Candida balanitis is usually caused by the following:

  • Inadequate hygiene when cleaning around the foreskin.
  • Certain soaps or lotions can cause an allergic reaction. Even if not allergic, it’s important to properly rinse soap from the area to avoid irritation.
  • An allergic reaction to latex condoms and spermicides.
  • Allergies to certain medications, antibiotics and pain relievers.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea and trichomoniasis.
  • Scabies, an infection from an infestation of tiny skin mites can cause balanitis.
  • Some medical conditions, including diabetes, reactive arthritis and cirrhosis of the liver can lead to the development of it.
  • Injuries to the tip of the penis or foreskin can also cause balanitis.

How to prevent candida balanitis?

To help avoid candidal balanitis you can:

  • Properly clean the area around the foreskin including underneath it.
  • Avoid wearing tight, restrictive or synthetic clothing.
  • Wear breathable cotton underwear.
  • If you have allergies to certain soaps, deodorants, genital sprays, bubble baths, or any other potential irritants, avoid using them on the genital area and simply use water to wash.

How do you treat candidal balanitis?

Candidal fungal infections such as thrush or candidal balanitis are generally not serious and can easily be treated by using an antifungal cream such as those containing clotrimazole or miconazole.

The creams should usually be applied twice a day for 7 to 14 days, or up to 3 days after the rash has cleared.

Left untreated, it can lead to further complications so it’s best to treat it at first sight.

How long can Candidal balanitis last?

Once treatment is started, balanitis usually clears up within five days. It’s important to keep the area clean and improve your hygiene routine.

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work if you have candidal balanitis.

When should I see my doctor?

You should see your doctor or sexual health clinic if you have tried over-the-counter measures and the symptoms haven’t completely cleared up or have come back quickly.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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