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Male circumcision

Male circumcision involves the surgical removal of the foreskin, the protective sleeve of skin that covers the head of the penis. There are various reasons for performing male circumcision – it is helpful to have as much information as possible when making a decision.

Reasons for circumcision

There can be several medical reasons for a boy or a man to be circumcised.

  • Phimosis is a condition where the foreskin is too narrow to pull back. This is normal for infants, but can be a problem if it still there in adulthood.
  • Paraphimosis is a rare condition where the foreskin can’t be returned to its original position after it has been pulled back. This causes a painful constriction.
  • Recurrent balanitis is an infection of the head of the penis.

However, male circumcision is also commonly performed for religious or cultural reasons, or as a matter of family tradition or parental preference.

Age at time of circumcision

Circumcision for religious reasons is often performed on newborn boys, or in puberty in some cultures as a coming of age ceremony. Circumcision for medical reasons may occur at any age, although it is more common in adulthood.

Risks and benefits of circumcision

Circumcision might reduce the risk of urinary tract infections (UTI) for boys, and of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) for men.

Complications of male circumcision are rare. Some boys and men have a little bleeding, pain or infection. Occasionally it can be severe.

Care after circumcision

For infants, antibiotic cream should be applied to the wound to protect against infection, and to stop the wound sticking to nappies. For adults, loose fitting underwear should be worn for 5–7 days and sexual arousal should be avoided for six weeks to allow the healing process to occur.

For further information on male circumcision, visit the Pregnancy birth and baby circumcision page.

Last reviewed: May 2016

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