Circumcision FAQ

What Is Circumcision?

Circumcision is surgery to remove the skin at the very tip of the penis.

Baby boys are born with a loose flap of skin that covers and protects the rounded top part of the penis. This skin is called the foreskin. It contains nerves, blood vessels, and a tiny part of muscle.

When you are born, the foreskin is stuck to the penis. It separates as you grow up. This allows urine to better exit the body and lets the skin pull back when you have an erection.

How Is Circumcision Done?

Circumcision is a quick procedure. It only takes a few minutes. It may be done in the hospital or at home a few days or weeks after you are born. It is also sometimes done later in life.

The foreskin is removed, and petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) is put on the wound before it's wrapped in gauze. Complications are rare but could include:

  • Bleeding
  • Blockage of the urethra, the opening where urine leaves the body
  • Infection or poor healing
  • Irritation of the tip of the penis
  • Removal of too much or too little foreskin

Why Are Some Boys Circumcised and Others Not?

Parents decide whether or not to have a boy circumcised when he is born. Not all baby boys are circumcised.

Things that can affect your parents' decision include:

  • Religious or cultural beliefs; circumcision is a Jewish and Islamic religious practice.
  • Social beliefs; your parents may worry you will "look different" if you do not have this surgery done.
  • Fear of possible risks related to surgery
  • Medical reasons; circumcision may lower your risk of some cancers and infections.

Why Wasn't I Circumcised?

Some reasons you might not have been circumcised include:

  • You may have been born with a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia.
  • You might have been born with other problems with the penis or foreskin.
  • Your parents may not have felt it was necessary for religious, social, or medical reasons.

Are There Benefits to Circumcision?

There are some medical benefits with circumcision. Here are some of them:

  • Circumcision lowers the risk of cancer of the penis, which is very rare.
  • Boys and men who are circumcised have less chance of getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). An STD is a disease you catch from sexual contact. An example is HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS.
  • Males who are circumcised have a slightly lower risk of getting a urinary tract infection. That's an infection affecting the bladder, kidneys, or the tubes that urine goes through as it leaves the body.
  • If you're circumcised, there's no worry that you'll get an infection of the foreskin.
  • Circumcision means you'll never get phimosis -- a condition in which very tight foreskin gets stuck to the penis.

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How Do I Care for an Uncircumcised Penis?

If you're not circumcised, you will need a couple extra steps to keep the penis clean:

  • First, gently pull the foreskin backwards.
  • Then, clean the skin underneath with soap and water.

You should do this every day.

Remember -- if your foreskin looks tight or is red or if there is pain in that area, see your doctor immediately.

Can I Get Circumcised as a Young Adult?

Circumcision may be done at any age. If you were not circumcised as a baby, you may choose to have it done later for personal or medical reasons. Your doctor may suggest circumcision later if:

  • You have repeated infections of the foreskin that do not get better with treatment.
  • You cannot pull the foreskin away from the tip of the penis.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 05, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

FamilyDoctor: "Circumcision."

HealthyChildren: "Circumcision."

World Health Organization: "Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention."

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