Therapeutics in Dermatology
A reference textbook in dermatology

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29 January 2013, by CHAINE B.


Balanitis is an inflammation of the glans penis and posthitis is an inflammation of the foreskin. Meatitis is an inflammation affecting only the urethral meatus and is often secondary to urethritis. Very often, in uncircumcised males it is balanoposthitis that develops. In practice, the term balanitis is used irrespective of the extent of involvement (glans penis and/or foreskin) and before aetiology is considered. A distinction is made between acute balanitis, which may be caused by infection, allergies, irritation, or trauma, and chronic balanitis, which includes inflammatory or precancerous cases. There are numerous different aetiologies (Table I) and the clinical signs are not always clearly distinctive. It is sometimes difficult to diagnose balanitis and additional examinations may be necessary since similar clinical pictures may have different aetiologies. For example, making the differential diagnosis between a simple case of infectious balanitis and inflammatory dermatosis with no satellite lesions, or a precancerous lesion that could be the source of irritation or secondary infection, is not straightforward. It therefore seems appropriate to discuss here inflammatory dermatoses of the glans penis and foreskin as well as precancerous dermatoses that are crucial to diagnose quickly in order to avoid progression to squamous cell carcinoma [1].

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