Phimosis (fɪˈmoʊsɨs or faɪˈmoʊsɨs, from the Greek phimos (φῑμός "muzzle"), is a condition of the penis where the foreskin cannot be fully retracted over the glans penis. Phimosis is a condition, not a disease. Phimosis may or may not require treatment. Some men live their entire lives with a non-retractile foreskin. They are able to have sexual intercourse and father children.
There are three causes of non-retractile foreskin:
- The tip of the foreskin is too narrow to pass over the glans penis.
- The inner surface of the foreskin is fused or adherent by a synechia to the glans penis.
- The frenulum is too short to permit retraction. The medical name for this condition is frenulum breve.
All may be conservatively treated without circumcision.
Non-retractable foreskin of infancy and childhood
Boys are almost always born with non-retractable foreskin. The inner surface of the foreskin of a newborn baby is fused by a synechia to the surface of the glans penis so that is non-retractable.  Moreover the tip of the foreskin at birth is usually too tight to permit any retraction. Thus normal, natural childhood non-retractable foreskin, which must be distinguished from pathological phimosis, has been given the name physiological phimosis to distinguish it from pathological phimosis in adults.
Physiological phimosis can be divided into three main categories - symptom-free, in need of therapy, and in need of surgery.
From a medical standpoint, an otherwise symptom-free phimosis, even after dissolution of preputial adhesions, does not require any treatment before the child enters puberty. The widespread notion that full retractability has to be achieved by a certain age, derives from obsolete assumptions and studies which only covered children's development until they entered school, but not beyond that point.
In most cases, only watchful waiting is necessary, not surgery or other treatment. Parental reassurance is the only treatment required.
By age 10.4 years, about 50 percent of intact boys have a retractable foreskin. Most of the rest develop a retractable foreskin in their teenage years. About two percent of adult males live with a non-retractable foreskin.
If treatment is deemed necessary, the application of topical steroid ointment is the most cost-effective treatment.
Teen intact boys with a non-retractable foreskin may benefit by manual stretching.
Non-retractile or tight foreskin is a condition, not a disease. It is not life threatening. One may elect to remain as one is, without treatment. Many men do not have an issue with non-retractile foreskin.
Many men can have sex, father children, and live happily with a non-retractile foreskin.
This option preserves the foreskin, it appearance, and most of the protective, immunological, sensory, and sexual functions, but does not make the foreskin retractable.
The growth and hormonal surge during puberty alter both the size and size ratio of the penis and penile skin significantly. Also, the first masturbation aids in the process of stretching of the skin and detachment of any remaining childhood fusion. Manual stretching causes tissue expansion and a wider, retractable foreskin.
If, after that, the foreskin still remains too tight, resulting in pain during sexual activities, and making genital hygiene difficult, treatment is indicated. The boy himself should engage in stretching exercises, if needed with the aid of corticosteroid cream. Depending on the active substances, success rates of 80-90% have been documented. 
Manual stretching preserves the foreskin and its many protective, immunological, sensory, and sexual physiological functions, and renders the foreskin retractable, but may take some months to achieve.
Should those therapies not yield the desired outcomes, there is a surgical option, namely a preputioplasty.
This surgical method preserves the foreskin. A good cosmetic result and total preservation of the foreskin are achieved. The basic principle of most of those methods consists of making one or more small longitudinal incisions, and then suturing the wound or wounds transversely.
There are several different methods:
- Dorsal slit with transverse suturing: this technique places a single lengthwise cut into the stenotic ring which is then closed transversely. 
- Lateral preputioplasty: this is a refinement of the dorsal slit with transverse suturing. It consists of two lateral, longitudinal incisions sutured transversely.
- Triple incision: this is a method of foreskin widening. It typically consists of three incisions across the tight ring. They are closed from side to side, thereby increasing the circumference of the tight ring relative to the length of the cuts. From an aesthetic view, it has results far superior to those of a dorsal slit, and usually yields a good cosmetic result.
Preputioplasty also preserves the foreskin and its many protective, immunological, sensory, and sexual physiologial functions
If after a failed attempt to stretch the foreskin with corticosteroid cream a surgical intervention is necessary, a preputioplasty is always to be preferred over classic circumcision, due to its lower morbidity, lower rate of complications and lower costs.
Frenulum breve can prevent foreskin retraction. In many cases, foreskin retraction can be achieved, without treating the foreskin, by treating frenulum breve. One may stretch the frenulum to create tissue expansion or one may have a minor surgical procedure such as frenectomy or frenuloplasty. (See discussion below.)
- Circumcision is the most expensive treatment.
- Circumcision has a long, painful, and difficult recovery. Erections are painful. Post-circumcision lymphoedema caused swelling can last for many months. Recovery time is placed at six weeks. Erections may cause sutures to pull out, thus opening the surgical wound, causing wound dehiscence. Sexual and psychological issues abound. As with other surgery, complications are surgical misadventure, hemorrhage, and infection. Loss of the penis and death are known. 
- Circumcision permanently and irreversibly amputates the foreskin, so its multiple protective, immunological, sensory, and sexual physiological functions are destroyed.
The sensitive head of the penis will be permanently exposed so the head will rub against clothing. Many men find this to be very painful.
- Many men report a permanent loss of sexual sensation.
- Circumcision results in a permanent circumcision scar.
Adult onset phimosis
Phimosis or tight foreskin may be caused by a yeast infection. The proper treatment is to use an anti-fungal drug.
Lichen Sclerosis, formerly called balanitis xerotica obliterans when it occurs in males, hardens the foreskin and makes it non-retractable.
In pathological phimosis, the foreskin cannot be retracted over the glans without injury, due to a lack of elasticity caused by scarring or hardening.
Repeated infections of the tight foreskin cause this scarring. Also, forceful attempts to retract the foreskin cause tearing with subsequential scarred phimosis. Lichen sclerosus, that first leads to adhesion and then to shrinking, can also be the cause of phimosis. This rare, non-contagious chronic skin disease is partly genetically caused and considered incurable.
Pathological phimosis usually requires treatment.
A circumcision is indicated in severe cases of pathological phimosis, where neither non-surgical methods with corticosteroid cream nor foreskin-preserving preputioplasty are promising (for example with chronic balanitis xerotica obliterans) or have failed in previous attempts.
Short frenulum (frenulum breve)
If the frenulum is too short, it can hinder or even prohibit retraction of the foreskin. Since the underside of the glans is attached to the inner foreskin by the frenulum, it can be bent downwards due to the resulting tension when the foreskin is retracted. If the mechanical strain is too great, the frenulum can tear or rip apart. If the frenular artery, which runs within, is damaged in the process, it can lead to considerable and prolonged bleeding. When only small tears appear, it may heal spontaneously.
Frenulum breve is frequently confused with phimosis.
To help the healing, lukewarm camomile baths or cremes containing panthenol can be applied. With a very short frenulum and previous large tears, surgical treatment is advised.
There are 3 surgical variants: 
- Frenectomy, the complete removal of the frenulum
- Frenuloplasty, where the frenulum is cut horizontally, and sewed together vertically
- Elongation of the frenulum with a skin graft.
Circumcision is not appropriate or necessary to treat frenulum breve. Patients must be careful when consulting a urologist, because urologists earn a nice fee from performing a circumcision, so may be quick to recommend inappropriate and un-necesary injurious circumcision to an unwary patient.
- Tissue expansion
- Retraction of the foreskin
- Physiological Phimosis, described in the Circumpendium
- Pathological Phimosis, described in the Circumpendium
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The goal of phimosis stretching is to get to a stage where you can move your foreskin, back and forth, freely over the glans while the penis is erect.
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