Circumcision is an age-old practice that continues across the world even today. While it is done for traditional reasons among children, adult males often go for it as treatment for medical issues. But there is a lot of misinformation scattered around circumcision and the benefits/risks it offers. Let’s try to understand it better.
Historic evidence suggests that the practice of circumcision might be as old as 15,000 years. The practice was also found to exist in different cultures, suggesting a common theme: hygiene and safety. In time, it was incorporated as a religious practice. Both Judaism and Islam promote circumcision of young boys, often at infancy. As such, most Muslim-majority nations and Israel see a significant number of circumcisions as a part of religious practice.
Circumcision in today’s world
The cases of circumcision across the world fluctuate across generations. Most Jews and Muslims consider circumcision a part of their religious duty, though the numbers are decreasing. USA also sees a large number of circumcision cases every year. South Korea saw a surge in circumcision in recent decades. It is observed that circumcision in kids today is mostly carried out either due to religious obligation or community tradition. In adults, however, it is largely due to medical complications.
Benefits of Circumcision
Circumcision of kids has continued over the centuries largely due to the benefits it provides. Research has indicated that circumcision can possibly provide the following benefits to the male children later in life:
- Better hygiene: Circumcised penis is easier to clean than uncircumcised one. It also seems to be the primary reason why circumcision became part of ancient culture.
- Lowers UTI risk: Urinary tract infection is primary a risk for women and the risk factor for males is quite low. However, it has been observed that circumcised men stand at an even lower risk of UTI than uncircumcised ones.
- Lowers Penile Cancer risk: Penile cancer is another condition that is quite rare, but it does occur in men. However, uncircumcised men seem to be at a greater risk than circumcised ones.
- Lowers risk of STI: Many researches have indicated that circumcised men have a lower risk of catching sexually-transmitted infections than their uncircumcised counterparts. This includes perhaps the most dangerous STI, HIV. The risk is lower because the foreskin has a chance of getting ruptured during intercourse, which might catch infections more easily.
- Prevents other penile problems: Issue related to foreskin can obviously be avoided by circumcision. For example, circumcised men do not have to worry about phimosis.
Risks of Circumcision
Even though circumcision in infants is quite a safe procedure, some risks do exist. These are:
- The foreskin might not heal properly and cause constant pain in the area.
- The foreskin might be cut too short (which defeats the purpose of circumcision) or too long (which can cause prolong discomfort to the kids).
- During healing, the foreskin might attach itself to the penis tip. This would require a minor surgery to correct.
There are some common side-effects of circumcision too, though they are natural and would soon subside:
- Infection, if the penis was not kept clean after the surgery
- Bleeding, if the penis was subjected to harsh treatment after surgery
- Anesthesia, if given, can also cause some mild side effects.
Circumcision For Adults
As opposed to children, adults go through only as a treatment for a medical condition. Some of the common conditions that require circumcision are:
- Phimosis is a condition where the foreskin is unable to retract from the tip of the penis. It can result in symptoms, from mild pain to urinary problems.
- Paraphimosis is a severe version of phimosis where the foreskin gets stuck behind the tip of the penis and restricts the flow of blood to it. If left untreated, it can cause gangrene.
- In Balanitis, the head of the penis swells and makes it harder to retract the foreskin. Like in phimosis, circumcision can solve the issue.
However, it must be remembered that circumcision in adults is much more complex than in infants. The procedure is longer, so is the recovery time. Since the penis has been habituated to the protection of foreskin for years, getting it removed can cause severe pain for weeks. Sexual activity would also cause great pain.
The procedure for circumcision is straightforward and relatively quick. The patient is restrained to the bed to avoid movement during the procedure (optional for adults). The penis is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Local anesthesia is either injected on the tip of the penis or applied as a cream over it. A ring is clamped to the penis and a lubricant is applied on its top. Then, usually with scissors or scalpel, the foreskin surrounding the tip of the penis is cut and removed. The penis is then covered to stop the bleeding. The procedure takes merely 10-20 minutes for infants but may take up to an hour for adults.
A new variation of circumcision is gaining popularity among adult males, known as cosmetic circumcision. It when carried out in adults, often caused great deal of pain and leaves the penis looking disfigured. This is because instead of the natural growth span than children get, the foreskin heals like a scar tissue among adults. It can often become a cause of embarrassment among men who go through the procedure.
However, cosmetic circumcision aims to solve the issue. The procedure uses high-precision scalpel instead of scissors and absorbable sutures commonly used in plastic surgery. This ensures that there is minimal pain, minimal scar and a speedy recovery. In major cities of India, cosmetically it is quickly becoming a favorite. For example, professionals like Dr. Gautam Banga in Delhi are seeing an increase in adult men opting for the procedure.
Recovery from circumcision among infants might take up to 10 days. The penis is generally sore during this period, and the pain becomes apparent as soon as the anesthesia wears off. The penis tip would also acquire a red, swollen look due to losing its protective flap. Occasionally, yellow pus might appear on the penis head, which is completely normal.
During recovery of the kid, you must take care of the following:
- Try to keep the penis lubricated at all times, usually with things like petroleum jelly.
- It is okay to wash the penis during recovery period, but make sure to use soaps without any harmful chemicals or irritants.
- Ensure that your kid is wearing loose-fitting clothes that do not stick to the penis.
- Keep an eye on your kid and stop him from putting any excessive pressure on the penis head.
- In case the kid does not urinate or bleeds for a long period, contact the doctor immediately.
Among adults, the recovery period is longer and more painful. However, all of the suggestions shared above apply on adults too.
It is not a major or a complex procedure by any means, but it is one of the most common ones. However, the confusion about it often stops men from seeking it even when they need it. However, you can now make a more informed choice about opting for it.
For further information on it do consult:-
Urologist, Andrologist and Genito -Urinary Reconstructive Surgeon
Contact no. : +91-9999062316