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Whether done for religious traditions, for health and cultural reasons, or even out of medical necessity, there is no denying the benefits of circumcision1. Many doctors have come out and admitted that the potential health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks (which are usually evident, if at all, in adult circumcision).
Before we discuss the medical benefits of circumcision, let us elucidate what is circumcision and the surgical procedure involved with circumcision.
1. What Is Circumcision?
For the uninitiated, circumcision is simply the surgical removal of the foreskin2. The foreskin is the skin covering the head of the penis (also known as the glans).
Circumcision can be done either for its health benefits or even for the sake of religious tradition. The religious tradition of circumcision is prominent in Judaism and Islam3, but few Christian denominations, such as the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and the Eritrean Orthodox Church also practice the circumcising procedure.
Medical circumcision is performed by a professional medical practitioner, whereas the community usually has a designated person who has performed several newborn male circumcisions for religious purposes.
Usually, a urologist4, pediatrician, or OB/GYN carries out neonatal circumcision for newborn boys, children, and older boys. However, an adult male circumcision can be performed only by a urologist because the complication of the procedure increases with the age of the person.
2. The Infant Male Circumcision Procedure
Pediatricians usually recommend universal newborn circumcision because as the baby grows older, the procedure of circumcision becomes rather complicated. There is less risk involved when the parents choose circumcision as early as possible.
If you plan on having newborn male circumcision5, the surgery usually takes place a couple of days after the birth of your baby boy. The surgical course of action for circumcising the newborn boy is performed while the baby is still awake. It is restrained with bands so the baby does not move and remains still.
After cleaning the penis with an antiseptic, the doctor injects an anesthetic into the base of the shaft to soothe the pain. Sometimes the doctor may apply this anesthetic in the form of an ointment also for relieving the pain.
The doctor then attaches a plastic ring or clamp to the penis and clips the excessive foreskin covering the tip of the penis.
After successfully clipping off the foreskin, the doctor then wraps the penis in gauze after applying ointment such as petroleum jelly to the penis.
The ring still stays on even after the operation and will automatically fall off after a few hours or even days. The whole procedure of circumcising is completed within 5-10 minutes for the newborn boy.
It will take anywhere from a week to 10 days till the newborn’s circumcised penis heals completely. After the procedure, the parents are advised to carefully handle the baby for a few days.
The tip of the penis may look swollen and red and sometimes may see a yellow fluid on the head of the penis, which is normal and should go away in a few days.
Before putting on the diaper and changing the bandage, it is advisable to apply petroleum jelly so that the penis does not stick to the diaper. Furthermore, to avoid infection, keep the penis clean with soap and lukewarm water and change their diapers often.
Though if the red swelling worsens by the day, do not hesitate to consult your doctor. Other signs of when you should consult your doctor:
- The baby does not urinate within 12 hours of surgery
- Often notice stains of blood on the diaper
- Notice pus around the affected area
- The ring does not wear off after 14 days of the procedure
3. The Adult Male Circumcision Procedure
Since the procedure becomes rather complex and prolonged with the increase in the male’s age, the circumcising of an adult can take up to 30 minutes or more even. But it becomes a necessity for some adults to circumcise their penis due to health reasons.
Unlike newborn circumcision, in adult male circumcision, the patient is sedated by administering anesthesia before beginning the circumcision surgery6.
After taking accurate measurements of the foreskin that it is needed to be removed, the doctor, using a scalpel, delicately cuts the excess skin off the tip of the penis. The skin is then surgically stitched back to the shaft of the penis or seared away using cauterization. The penis is then wrapped around in a protective dressing at the time of discharge.
It is normal to experience bruising and swelling after the circumcision surgery. In adults, most circumcisions may take up to 14-21 days to heal properly.
During this healing period, the person should avoid any kind of physical activity such as running, jumping, exercising, etc. Wearing comfortable but firm underwear can help in avoiding further swelling and pain. While the person can resume physical activities after around 28 days, activities such as masturbation and sexual intercourse will need to wait a week or two more.
4. Health Benefits of Circumcision
Circumcised men and circumcised boys reap the benefits of circumcision compared to uncircumcised males. The health benefits are:
4.1 Lower risk of UTIs:
UTIs or Urinary Tract Infections are infections caused in any part of the urinary system, i.e., the bladder, the kidneys, or the urethra.
4.2 Decreased risk of STDs:
Sexually transmitted diseases (also known as sexually transmitted infections) pass from one person to another through sexual contact.
The common types of sexually transmitted diseases are gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. There are many dangerous and incurable ones like hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (responsible for genital warts, penile cancer, and cervical cancer), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
A randomized trial demonstrated in Africa stated that adult male circumcision decreases the risk of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by 51% to 60% and high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) by 32% to 35%. Additionally, the trial also revealed a reduced risk of acquisition of genital herpes7 by 28% to 34% in circumcised men.
4.3 Reduced Risk of Cervical Cancer in Women Partners
One of the benefits of circumcision in female partners of circumcised men had a reduced risk of contracting HPV by 28%. Furthermore, bacterial vaginosis (caused by bacteria accumulated under the foreskin) was reduced by 40%.
4.4 Prevent Phimosis and Paraphimosis:
The inability to retract one’s foreskin is called phimosis. Contrastingly, the inability to bring the foreskin to its original position is called paraphimosis. It is more common in children but can be prevented by having the foreskin removed.
4.5 Prevent Balanitis and Balanoposthitis:
Balanitis is the inflammation of the tip of the penis, while balanoposthitis is the inflammation of the tip of the penis and the foreskin.
4.6 Inhibit Accumulation of Smegma:
Smegma is a white substance that gets accumulated around the head of the penis, commonly in uncircumcised males. This smegma contains bacteria and overgrowth of these bacteria can lead to a pungent smell and can also lead to certain infections.
5. Busting Circumcision Myths
There are myths about circumcision and its impact, which people still gobble up naively. We will bust the most common myths about circumcision:
5.1 Circumcision Hinders Sexual Pleasure:
Circumcision does not hinder the amount of sexual satisfaction experienced during intercourse, nor does it enhance it, for that matter.
5.2 Circumcision Curtails Fertility:
Circumcision does not affect fertility in any way. The procedure does not alter your biological ability to reproduce or ejaculate.
6. Uncircumcised Penis Hygiene Care
For men who are not circumcised, maintaining hygiene is not impossible. Washing underneath the foreskin can prevent smegma and many other infections while keeping your penis odor-free8.
While circumcision has its risks, the benefits certainly outweigh them. A circumcised penis has more health benefits than an uncircumcised penis. Not only does it reduce the risk of diseases, but it also helps to maintain good genital hygiene, which is pivotal, especially for sexually active men.
8.1 Is It True That Circumcision Improves Hygiene?
Due to the removal of the foreskin, which may collect smegma and necessitate cleaning, circumcision might facilitate better genital hygiene. However, with routine cleaning, males who have not had circumcision can also maintain good genital hygiene habits.
8.2 Can the Act of Circumcision Influence Sex?
According to studies, most men’s sexual function and enjoyment are unaffected by circumcision. Although it might vary from person to person, some people may notice changes in sensitivity, sensations, or sexual preferences after circumcision.
8.3 Does Circumcision Include Any Risks Or Complications?
Circumcision carries risks of bleeding, infection, and problems from anesthesia, much like any surgical treatment. Serious complications are uncommon, though, and most circumcision procedures are safe when carried out by trained healthcare professionals utilizing the proper methods and aftercare procedures.
- Moses, Stephen, Robert C. Bailey, and Allan R. Ronald. “Male circumcision: assessment of health benefits and risks.” Sexually transmitted infections 74.5 (1998): 368. ↩︎
- Snodgrass, Warren T., et al. “Foreskin preservation in penile surgery.” The Journal of urology 176.2 (2006): 711-714. ↩︎
- Hollender, Elisabeth. “The ritualization of circumcision in medieval Judaism in relation to Islam and Christianity: an overview.” Religion 42.2 (2012): 233-246. ↩︎
- Litwiller, Scott E., ELLIOT M. FROHMAN, and Philippe E. Zimmern. “Multiple sclerosis and the urologist.” The Journal of urology 161.3 (1999): 743-757. ↩︎
- Sorokan, S. Todd, et al. “Newborn male circumcision.” Paediatrics & Child Health 20.6 (2015): 311-315. ↩︎
- Malone, Padraig, and Henrik Steinbrecher. “Medical aspects of male circumcision.” BMJ 335.7631 (2007): 1206-1290. ↩︎
- Bryson, Yvonne, et al. “Risk of acquisition of genital herpes simplex virus type 2 in sex partners of persons with genital herpes: a prospective couple study.” Journal of Infectious Diseases 167.4 (1993): 942-946. ↩︎
- Le Guérer, Annick. “The psychoanalysts’ nose.” The Psychoanalytic Review 88.3 (2001): 401-453. ↩︎