Advantages and Risks of Circumcision

What is Circumcision?

Circumcision is a surgical procedure performed to remove the foreskin of the penis. The foreskin is the shroud of skin that can be gently pulled back to reveal the head of the penis.

It is one of the oldest and most common operation often performed on infants for different reasons bordering on medical, social, cultural, and religious.

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About 58.3 percent of American newborns were circumcised in 2010. In the United Kingdom (U.K.), around 8.5 percent of males are circumcised according to the CDC.

Circumcision of a newborn takes 5 to 10 minutes, but an adult circumcision procedure may take longer, around 1 hour and recovery takes 2 to 3 weeks.

According to the CDC, circumcision may reduce the risk of developing HIV and other health problems.

Why newborns are circumcised

A number of factors are linked with newborn circumcision including religion, health reasons, and hygiene.

According to some studies, circumcising newborn babies reduces the risk of urinary tract infection (UTI). However, more new studies have challenged this, with some suggesting it may increase the risk.

Results from studies has indicated a lower risk of some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Circumcised men appear to be less likely to develop herpes or syphilis compared to uncircumcised males. Uncircumcised males may develop balanitis or phimosis. With these conditions, the foreskin cannot be retracted, so surgery may be required.

Adult Circumcision

Circumcision is mostly performed when a male child is just newly born than when he is grown up. Newborns are mostly circumcised because it causes less psychological trauma and tissue trauma than in adults.

However, it may be recommended in some circumstances:

Phimosis: This is inability to retract the foreskin, leading to pain and urinary problems. It can occur if a male is born with a tight foreskin, or because of scarring, infection, or inflammation. Phimosis can be treated with topical corticosteroids or circumcision.

Paraphimosis: Paraphimosis is a medical emergency. It occurs when the foreskin is stuck behind the head of the penis and restricts the blood flow to the end of the penis. It can be caused by medical intervention, such as the use of a catheter. If left untreated, it can result to gangrene. Treatment reduces the swelling, but circumcision is recommended after recovery, to prevent a reoccurrence.

Balanitis: This is the inflammation of the head of the penis due to sexually transmitted infection (STI), thrush, skin irritation, or another skin condition. Balanitis commonly affects uncircumcised males. Circumcision can prevent a recurrence.

Circumcision and HIV

Circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV during heterosexual sex by 60 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, circumcision will offer only fractional protection, so men are advised to use condoms.

Since the foreskin becomes more vulnerable to splits and ruptures during sexual intercourse, this increases the chances of infection.

Also, uncircumcision may increase risks of HIV infection because the space between the penis and the foreskin might provide an environment in which a virus can survive for a period of time. This raises the risk of infection for the individual and their next partner.

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However, some researchers contend that the U.S. has a relatively high rate of HIV, in spite of the high rates of circumcision. From 2008 to 2014, new infections with HIV fell from 45,700 to 37,600. Of these, 26,200 new cases were among men who were gay or bisexual, according to the CDC.

Risks of Circumcision

Circumcision is a relatively safe procedure, and severe complications are rare.

The following risks are possible:

  • Blood loss and hemorrhage may occur
  • The wound does not heal properly
  • The foreskin is cut too short or left too long
  • Meatal stenosis (urinary stream is deflected upwards, making it difficult to aim)
  • Damage affects the urethra, making urination difficult
  • Blood infection or poisoning (septicemia), may develop
  • Decrease in the sensation of the penis
  • The foreskin left behind might reattach to the penis and require further minor surgery.
  • Accidental amputation of the head of the penis in rare cases


Complications are more likely when the procedure is carried out:

  • on older males
  • using unsterile equipment
  • by inexperienced providers

Psychological effects of circumcision

Several experts and psychologists are worried about the CDC’s backing for male circumcision especially because the procedure is performed without anesthesia.

They argue that circumcision is psychologically traumatic, especially to infants, children, and teens, and may lead to brain changes that are connected to mood disorders.

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Older children experience a degree of trauma with any surgical intervention, and particularly if it involves the genitals. In adolescence, it can lead to symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).

In men with phimosis, using less invasive methods, such as a corticosteroid cream, may help reduce the risk of anxiety and castration anxiety that goes with circumcision.

Tips on fast recovery after circumcision

After circumcision, the affected area will be bruised and swollen for 2 to 3 weeks, and urination may be painful for a few days or weeks.

Recommendations for the recovery include:

  • Drink lots of fluids to dilute the acidity of urine and reduce pain on urination
  • Avoid physical activity until the wound has healed, usually 3 weeks for older boys and men
  • Avoid wearing loose-fitting boxers, instead put on underwear that holds the penis in place
  • Do not use an antiseptic cream or other cream that has not been prescribed because it can interfere with the healing process and increase the risk of infection and scarring
  • Instead of antiseptic cream, use petroleum jelly to dab on the end of the penis. This may help reduce pain during urination.
  • Lie on one side, rather than on your back and draw up your knees in fetal position
  • Empty the bladder before retiring, use the bathroom as necessary during the night.


Disclaimer: The content provided on is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.




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