When someone mentions using a phimosis cream to treat their tight foreskin, they’re usually referring to steroid creams. While steroid creams have shown to be quiet beneficial for treating phimosis, it is important to know their limitations and their potential side effects.
Phimosis is a condition where your foreskin becomes too tight to allow your glans to easily slide through. The goal of conservative treatments is to preserve the foreskin and its function while fixing the problem permanently.
One way to do this is to widen the narrow (problematic) part of your foreskin enough to allow the glans through, even in an erect state. Since our foreskin has the ability to grow, a consistent regimen of stretching can slowly widen the narrow foreskin opening. However, the expansion of skin, no matter where it is located, is a slow process.
That’s where steroid creams come in. They can help speed the process of foreskin expansion and fix your phimosis much faster than you would without them.
Not really. As you’re about to see, steroid creams don’t work equally well for everyone and they are certainly not free of side effects. Learning about the pros and cons of phimosis creams can help you make a more informed decision about how to treat your phimosis in a safe and effective way.
What are steroids and what do they do?
The steroids that we talk about when it comes to phimosis creams are actually called corticosteroids, not to be confused with anabolic steroids that are often linked with abuse by athletes and bodybuilders.
The story of steroids (corticosteroids) begins at the top of our kidneys, where you will find two small organs called the adrenal glands. Among the adrenal gland’s many functions is to protect your body from stress. It does this through its production of hormones called corticosteroids.
Corticosteroids produced by the adrenal glands travel through your blood stream and carry out their effects all over the body. One of the remarkable effects of these corticosteroids is their ability to quickly reduce inflammation.
This is the effect that is of highest the importance to phimosis sufferers – the anti-inflammatory effect.
So important is this ability of fighting inflammation that pharmaceutical companies have derived creams from corticosteroids that deliver these anti-inflammatory compounds directly to problematic areas – for example the region of your foreskin that is too tight.
These creams are called steroid creams or as most phimosis sufferers call them, phimosis creams.
Why are steroid creams helpful for phimosis?
So what if they reduce inflammation. Phimosis isn’t an inflammatory condition, right?
True, but foreskin stretching is an inflammatory process!
One big myth that most phimosis sufferers have is that simply applying a steroid cream to your tight foreskin will cure it. Not true.
To understand how phimosis creams treat phimosis, you have to imagine a tug of war between two processes: foreskin expansion and foreskin inflammation.
Stretching the foreskin with your hands or a stretching device stimulates it to grow and expand over time. However, the same stretching process also triggers inflammation in the foreskin and sets your progress back.
Here is the phimosis sufferer’s dilemma:
- If you stretch too gently, your foreskin may steer clear of inflammation but it also may not be stimulated enough to grow.
- On the other hand, if the foreskin is stretched too hard, the trigger for inflammation will be much stronger than the stimuli to expand and will impede your results.
Since this is not an exact science, most phimosis sufferers bounce back and forth between seeing positive results and experiencing setbacks from inflammation.
If only there was something that kept the inflammation at bay while the foreskin was repeatedly stimulated to grow, you could fix a tight foreskin with ease.
That’s exactly what phimosis creams do. They allow the foreskin expansion process to win over the inflammation process.
If phimosis creams are so great, why don’t they cure all cases of phimosis?
Like any medication, phimosis creams have their limitations. For example, not all steroid creams are equally beneficial for phimosis. Steroid creams vary in their strength from very mild to very potent.
Mild steroids, such as hydrocortisone that can be bought over-the-counter without a prescription, are not helpful at expanding the foreskin. They will simply ease mild foreskin irritations but do nothing to help it grow.
To be beneficial for phimosis, you need a potent steroid cream, such as betamethasone 0.1%. These creams can only be bought with a doctor’s prescription and for good reason.
Prescription-grade steroids have the ability to help loosen your skin and speed up the foreskin expansion process. However, there are many things that determine how effective or dangerous they can be:
- Phimosis creams work better in children than in adults – Children are more likely to benefit from steroid creams because their foreskin is thinner than that of an adult, so it takes much less effort for it to expand.However, the thinness of their skin also puts them at greater risk of side effects from steroid creams. A child’s skin surface has much poorer barrier function than that of an adult. This allows more of the steroid to enter the blood stream and cause body-wide side effects such as disrupting their hormonal balance and even affecting their growth.
- Phimosis creams are not very effective in severe phimosis cases – Steroid creams can only help expand your foreskin so far. The narrower your foreskin opening, the lesser its ability to resolve your problem. Also, steroid creams are far less effective in the presence of any scarring around the phimotic ring.
- They can increase your chances of developing an infection – Phimosis creams alter your immune response around your foreskin. Prolonged use can take away your foreskin’s ability to fight fungal and bacterial infections. Since phimosis sufferers are already at a greater risk of developing infections, the application of steroid creams can increase the likelihood of an infection or make an existing infection more severe.
- They can increase your chances of tearing your foreskin – The longer you apply a phimosis cream, the more the epidermis (top layer) of your foreskin breaks down. This is a good thing because it helps loosen your skin, however thinner skin is weaker skin. With prolonged use your foreskin becomes more vulnerable to tears from stretches that would otherwise be harmless.
- Using a steroid cream for phimosis is typically outside of its intended use – If you ever read the little information booklet that comes with topical steroids, you’ll find that they discourage its application to the genital region. That’s because our foreskin and our glans absorb much more of the drug into the blood stream than if applied on other parts of our body.It’s important to realize that steroid creams are in essence hormones. Hormones are some of the most potent chemicals in our body and have wide ranging effects on every one of our organs. Their levels are tightly regulated. Too much or too little of these hormones in our body can have devastating effects on our health.By this token, phimosis creams should be applied sparingly and for a very short period of time. This gives phimosis sufferers a very small window to accomplish their foreskin expansion goals safely.
For this reason, it is essential to involve a doctor in your phimosis treatment if using steroid creams. When a doctor prescribes you a phimosis cream, he is prescribing it for an off-label use. In other words, the manufacturers of the drug have not studied its use on phimosis patients. He determines your application regimen by weighing the risks against the benefits. It is important to stick to the prescribed regimen to prevent any serious side effects.
Remember, steroid creams can’t be used endlessly. However, they can be effective if used safely and smartly with the help of a physician that is familiar with your particular phimosis case.