Circumcised Boys and Penis Problems

SEX AND HEALTH, Volume 14 No. 3, Page 3.

March 1998.


Study shows circumcised boys are prone to penis problems

Of all the factors parents consider when deciding whether to circumcise a newborn boy, hygiene typically tops the list. But a surprising new study published in the British Journal of Urology challenges that notion. Not only do circumcised toddlers require more care, but they are far more likely to develop penis problems than their intact counterparts, says study author Robert S. Van Howe, M.D., a pediatrician at Marshfield Clinic in Minocqua, Wisconsin. "It's the exact opposite of what parents have been told to do for the last 50 years." Here's what Dr. Van Howe concludes:

There's no medical reason to routinely circumcise. In fact, there may be good reason to leave well enough alone. Dr. Van Howe's study of 468 boys found that 54 percent of circumcised boys under age three had minor penis problems, such as swellings and skin adhesions. Only 5 percent of their uncut brethren had such irritations.

Retract and wash daily. While he recommends leaving an uncircumcised boy's penis alone until the child can retract his foreskin himself, Dr. Van Howe advises parents of circumcised infants and toddlers to retract any remaining skin doctors typically leave behind. In this skin is not drawn back and washed, adhesions can form between it and the head of the penis. These adhesions in turn can form scars and bumps. In fact, 44 percent of the circumcised kids in the study had penile problems that could have been prevented through proper hygiene.

Bring concerns to your doctor. "Any redness of irritation that lasts for more than three days may indicate an infections and needs medical treatment," says Dr. Van Howe.

Since fewer than 15 percent of the penis problems in the study were detected by parents, it's important to ask your doctor to give your son a thorough genital exam during his regular checkups.

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