To review the differences between physiologic and pathologic phimosis, review proper foreskin care, and discuss when it is appropriate to seek consultation regarding a phimotic foreskin.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
This paper is based on selected findings from a MEDLINE search for literature on phimosis and circumcision referrals and on our experience at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Urology Clinic. MeSH headings used in our MEDLINE search included “phimosis,” “referral and consultation,” and “circumcision.” Most of the available articles about phimosis and foreskin referrals were retrospective reviews and cohort studies (levels II and III evidence).
Phimosis is defined as the inability to retract the foreskin. Differentiating between physiologic and pathologic phimosis is important, as the former is managed conservatively and the latter requires surgical intervention. Great anxiety exists among patients and parentsregarding non-retractile foreskins. Most phimosis referrals seen in pediatric urology clinics are normal physiologically phimotic foreskins. Referrals of patients with physiologic phimosis to urology clinics can create anxiety about the need for surgery among patients and parents, while unnecessarily expanding the waiting list for specialty assessment. Uncircumcised penises require no special care. With normal washing, using soap and water, and gentle retraction during urination and bathing, most foreskins will become retractile over time.
Physiologic phimosis is often seen by family physicians. These patients and their parents require reassurance of normalcy and reinforcement of proper preputial hygiene. Consultation should be sought when evidence of pathologic phimosis is present, as this requires surgical management.