What are penile adhesions?

Penile adhesions occur in circumcised boys when the skin of the shaft of the penis sticks to the head of the penis. Most penile adhesions do not cause any pain and many get better on their own with no treatment.

There are varying degrees of penile adhesion:

  • Simple adhesions: This type is when there is a connection between the skin on the shaft of the penis and the head of the penis, covering the coronal margin (the line that separates the glans of the penis from the shaft).
  • Penile skin bridges: This occurs when there is a more permanent attachment, like a scar, of the skin between the shaft of the penis and the coronal margin.
  • Buried penis: This occurs when adhesions or chronic skin changes traps the head of the penis below the suprapubic fat pad.

What are the signs and symptoms of penile adhesions?

The symptoms depend on what type of penile adhesion your son has. You may notice a band of skin that attaches the shaft and head of the penis. Or the penis may look like it’s buried in the pad of pubic fat.

Adhesions are often associated with a white debris in the area. This is called smegma. It is made of skin oils and dead skin cells mixing together. It is not an infection and it is not associated with poor hygiene. It is a normal finding.

What causes penile adhesions?

Penile adhesions are a very common finding. It can occur in normally circumcised penises. It can occur if all the foreskin is not removed during circumcision. They can also occur if excess fat in the pubic area pushes the skin of the penis forward.

How are penile adhesions treated?

The Division of Urology at Arkansas Children’s is experienced at diagnosing and treating all types of penile adhesions and can help you decide the best treatment plan for your child.

Your child’s treatment may depend on the type of penile adhesion he has:

  • Simple adhesions often get better on their own and may need no intervention.
  • Penile skin bridges need to be treated with a simple procedure to separate the bridge. This is sometimes done in the doctor’s office using topical numbing cream, but is more common in the operating room under general anesthesia.
  • Occasionally, adhesions or chronic skin changes are treated by applying topical steroid cream to the area. If this treatment does not work, your child may need a procedure in the operating room to correct the problem.