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Balanitis - Get That Cheese Off My Mushroom
The inexhaustible human desire for euphemisms gives way to a bewildering array of slang terms for the penis. The Japanese say “matsutake” to compare a penis to a particular type of mushroom with a long, thin shaft and a disproportionately large top, while Americans simply say “big purple mushroom” to refer to an erection.
 
This poetic reference can become considerably less funny, even spoiled, by the presence of an actual fungus, especially if the fungus (most likely of the Candida genus of yeasts) causes redness, tissue irritation and foul-smelling discharge. This condition, known as balanitis, or inflammation of the glans penis, can be caused by several factors, including injury or bacteriological infection. However, the condition can also result in sexually transmitted diseases and fungal infections.
 
Who Ordered This?
Balanitis is a rare condition found among uncircumcised men, but the condition can still appear among circumcised men. It is statistically more likely to occur in uncircumcised males as scientific studies show that the anaerobic environment between the foreskin and the glans penis presents many other factors that contribute to the condition. These factors may include but are not limited to a consistently warm temperature, reliably high humidity and buildup of organic matter (such as sloughed-off skin cells as well as residue from sexual intercourse). Physical trauma may cause bleeding (which also provides a rich food-source for bacterial as well as fungal microoganisms) or otherwise disrupt the body’s natural defenses against the infection.
 
Back to the Washroom
Despite the millions of dollars spent on designing and marketing all those wonderful skin-cleaning lotions available today, all that is really necessary is a supply of warm, clean water and mild, non-anti-bacterial soap. Gently wash the area under your foreskin, or simply the entirety of your glans penis if you are circumcised. Press only as hard as you wash similar delicate tissue such as your eyelids, and with roughly the same duration.
 
Note, however, that overenthusiastic washing of this part of the penis can also contribute to the condition. The outermost layer of the human skin is home to several species of microorganisms that contribute to the health of their host, often through simply preventing more malignant microorganisms from establishing a presence there. Washing them away with excessive scrubbing or too-caustic soaps will actually increase your chances of contracting balanitis.
 
In the end, your best bet is to speak with your health-care provider if your penis is irritated enough that you don’t want to touch it. The different possible causes of balanitis require different treatments, so an expert’s opinion is definitely in order. Keep it clean!
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