"Most boys will have retractable foreskins by the age of 10 and 95% by the time they reach the age of 17," says GP Dr Ketan Bhatt. So if you're yet to slope out of your teenage years, don't panic. If, however, those halcyon days of acne and Spider-Man bed covers are far behind you, and your foreskin remains welded to your helmet, you've got a problem.
"Phimosis can cause swelling, redness and tenderness and thus make sex very painful," says Bhatt. And it is, after all, difficult to enjoy sex when your bloodcurdling shrieks of pain drown out your partner's moans. What's more, it's possible that during sex you may cause paraphimosis. This is where the foreskin retracts and will not return to its original position. It's a medical emergency and is also, let's face it, no fun at all.
Treatment depends on the cause. "If the problem is physiological (ie. you're born with it) – then personal hygiene and topical steroids can help," says Bhatt. Betamethasone cream 0.05% should be applied to the exterior and interior of the foreskin's tip two or three times a day. "If it is due to an infection and other treatments do not help – then a referral to a urologist may be required for circumcision," says Bhatt.
Your first move, though, should be to try and stretch your foreskin yourself. Use lube or do it in the bath when your penis is flaccid. No luck? Go to your doc and try topical steroids. More minor surgical procedures such as dorsal slits are also an option. Circumcision should be your last resort.
This article was originally published on MensHealth.co.uk