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Phimosis is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • True phimosis is the pathologic inability to retract the foreskin over the glans of the penis as a result of scarring.
  • The inability to retract a normal, supple foreskin is not true phimosis.
  • The foreskin is rarely retractable at birth due to normal adhesions between the glans and the inner prepuce.
  • ∼90% are retractable by 3 yr of age, and 99% are retractable by 17 yr, as the epithelial cells that comprise smegma are shed.
  • Parents should be instructed not to forcibly retract the foreskin.


Possible causes of true phimosis include:
  • Trauma from forcible retraction of the foreskin
  • Repetitive bouts of diaper dermatitis
  • Recurrent balanoposthitis
  • Poor hygiene
  • Poorly performed circumcision
  • Congenital anomalies

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Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Phimosis." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307369/all/Phimosis.
Phimosis. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307369/all/Phimosis. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Phimosis. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307369/all/Phimosis
Phimosis [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 24]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307369/all/Phimosis.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Phimosis ID - 307369 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307369/all/Phimosis PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -