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Illnesses & Symptoms

Penile Adhesions

The first few years of life it is common for the head of the penis to stick to the skin on the end of the penis shaft. This is called penile adhesions, and is not a serious problem.  Usually if left alone it self resolves by 3 years of age. Forcefully pulling back on the adhesions (stuck tissues) causes pain and bleeding and is not recommended.

Why does this happen?

The fat pad above the penis grows a lot during the infant years.  This makes the penis appear to shrink as it is swallowed up by the fat pad.  This allows the skin of the penis to rub against the head of the penis.  Small irritations occur on the skin surface, causing it to stick to the surrounding tissues.

Why does it look like cottage cheese along the edge?

The cells on the surface of the glans and inside the foreskin are discarded normally, like other cells of the body.  Routine cleaning can prevent the accumulation of these cells.  If these cells accumulate, they form a white cheesy substance called smegma.  Adhesions usually do not cause any problems and no treatment is necessary, even if smegma develops.  If this happens, you might notice white pearly, cheesy, smegma coming out of the edge of the adhesion.  This does not require treatment.  If it becomes red and swollen, make an appointment with your doctor.

How do I prevent this from happening?

As boys build up baby fat, they tend to get a large fat pad at the base of the penis.  The penis often hides in the fat pad.  You should push down on the fat pad near the base of the penis to expose the penis for cleaning with bathing.  If you notice that the skin starts to "stick" to the head of the penis (aka the glans), put petrolatum jelly in the area several times per day to prevent more adhesions.

As your son becomes able, teach him to clean his own penis with normal bathing.

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Illnesses & Symptoms