As the average man, I match the life experience of many other men in the world. I went to an unspectacular school, got a basic education with unremarkable grades, and went on to work. I have remained here for many years in my quest to be successful and encountered many troubles on the way; financial, emotional and physical. One unpleasant experience was related to my tight foreskin, or more specifically, my worries in anticipation of circumcision.
So considering I am now fully recovered from my circumcision surgery, I thought it would be useful to share my experience with many men suffering with phimosis, who may have many questions related to it.
How my Phimosis Occurred
As a child, my gran would often tell me that I would go blind if I continued to put my hands down my trousers. Even from a really young age, my parents can recall that they would tell me to stop pulling on my foreskin as I lay in the bath. I remember chatting about it to my two closest friends, who would also share their own encounters of family disapproval. As I became older, I learnt that it is a natural and fundamental part of a boy’s childhood to be curious of his private region. The stretching and pulling that boys often do, helps to reduce the likelihood of preputial adhesions, frenulum breve, and phimosis. So, for those with young sons, grandsons and the like, it may be helpful to ignore their curiosity and fascination, within reason of course. This may provide nature the opportunity to prevent adult phimosis, long before it becomes an issue.
My tight foreskin was present throughout my childhood, and I have since learned that this is referred to as physiologic phimosis. By comparison, later onset phimosis is known as pathologic phimosis, which assumes that the foreskin was previously retractable without issue, but the foreskin has become tight later. A tight foreskin during childhood is extremely common and is a natural protection for the delicate and sensitive skin. Usually it will resolve independently as the glans and foreskin develop. In some children however, the tight foreskin remains.
During childhood through to my late teens, I didn't pay too much attention to my phimosis, I was able to retract when flaccid, which meant that personal hygiene wasn't an issue. As time progressed however, I would often get small splits and tears which started to become uncomfortable and at times quite unpleasant. For a few years I tolerated it, but if I'm absolutely honest with myself, it became a daily aggravation.
Moving forward to my late twenties, I now had quite a lot of scar tissue at the tip of my foreskin. This meant that it was starting to become almost impossible to retract to clean my foreskin and glans. Possibly influenced by my obsessively hygienic nature, I felt compelled to resolve it.
Booking my Doctor Appointment.
When we consider that we have a medical issue, we usually just pop to the docs and have it fixed. But when it's such an incredibly personal issue, most of us have to build up the courage to go and see a professional. This was definitely the case when I came to speak to my doctor. I remember calling to make an appointment, a female answered, and I reluctantly asked for the next available time.
“Can I ask you what it relates to?” She asked. I stuttered “ah,well,erm, it's kind of personal” I said. I was already questioning whether I was prepared to go through this. Why do they need to ask me that!!!? I thought.
The Initial Examination
So, I arrive at the doctors on the morning of my appointment. I was convinced that the women behind the desk were talking about why I might be here. This was just my mind running wild, as no doubt, they had far more important and interesting things to talk about.
I was called in. “Hello, we have a student with us today, do you have any objections?” He asked. At that point I wanted the ground to swallow me up, but instead I just smiled and said “ok no problem”. Thankfully it was a male student, but it still added to my discomfort.
“Thank you, and how can I help?” he asked. “Well..erm..I've had a problem with my foreskin for years, and it's now become so tight that I can't pull it back” I replied as I felt my face glowing red. I don't know why it's so difficult for men to talk about personal issues, I understand that times are changing and people are perhaps becoming more open, but I think we are a long way from being able to openly discuss these personal issues. “Ok, could you pull down your jeans and lie back on the bed” he said as he donned a pair of rubber gloves.
I did so, and he literally took a 10 second look at my foreskin before asking me to pull up my jeans and take a seat. “You have phimosis” he said. I was already aware of this, as I had already been reading about tight foreskin problems, as I tried desperately to avoid my appointment. “For this you need circumcision. This is a quick surgical operation which rarely causes any further issues. I'll arrange an appointment at the outpatients clinic. Here is a leaflet, have a read of it and we'll be in touch”. I guess I was hoping for a magic pill, but I kind of accepted beforehand that surgery would be the only solution.
Anxiety due to Circumcision Surgery
For a few weeks I didn't think about it much, I just went on with my usual daily routine of work and little play. I received an appointment to visit my local hospital, where I again had to pull down my jeans and lie down. It didn't feel quite so embarrassing this time however. I guess that it helped knowing that he would have already read my notes and referral letter, so I'd just be another one of his many patients having the same procedure.
The next letter was met with my overwhelming anxiety however. It would be just 6 weeks for me to go in for my circumcision, and this suddenly terrified me.
I began to browse online and my anxiety snowballed as I read the horror stories experienced by other guys who had been circumcised. The fact is, when we search medical issues online, usually the only ones posting are the ones who wish to share a horrific ordeal. The countless successes usually remain uncounted, so we are often influenced by negativity.
I went ahead with my appointment despite my fears. I remember staying awake all night prior to my appointment as I thought about the pain and discomfort I was about to encounter.
So, I attended my hospital appointment, it was fairly early so I didn't really notice the 6 hour nil by mouth (the no eating or drinking rule prior to general anaesthetics). I was led to a room and asked to change into a gown. I'm usually quite a sociable person, but not today. My fear of the imminent surgery had consumed me to the point where it was difficult to blurt out more than a couple of words. Thankfully the surgery was a success and without any issues. I woke feeling pretty unpleasant as most do following anaesthetic. I was told that I needed to wait a while before I could be discharged, so remained there until late afternoon. I didn't feel much pain or sensitivity immediately after waking, as I suspect that I had been given strong pain relief. I couldn't see the result of the surgery yet due to the bandage. The discomfort started to increase slightly as I returned home, but it was bearable.
So that was the difficult part finished at least. It's now just a matter of taking it easy for a couple of days, that wasn't so bad, I thought.
The following morning was a different story. I woke early to some pretty horrific pain. I'd already been advised to take my painkillers, and did as advised but it had zero impact. I gave it an hour and called the number I'd been given with my aftercare leaflet. “Surely there's something stronger you can give me?” I asked. I was met with a “no, it's normal to experience discomfort. Did you read your leaflet?”. I guess I'm on my own with this, I figured.
I'd booked a week holiday from work, and this was definitely needed as the pain took a few days to settle. On day two, I noticed that the bandage was slightly bloodstained. My aftercare leaflet stated that the bandage should be removed at 24-48 hours post op, so I decided to unravel it. When I reached the end of the bandage, I saw that it had welded itself to the sutures so I was left with a dilemma of whether to try to reapply the bandage or break the rules and soak in the bath. I decided upon the latter, so took a bath and gently peeled the bandage away. So there it was: the result of my circumcision, a swollen, bruised and bloodstained mess.
I was left with soreness for a while, nothing too bad, but the hypersensitivity was really unpleasant. My glans would get stuck to my underwear, then detach as I moved leading to a searing pain. Sleep seemed to be even worse! I'm naturally quite restless during sleep, and would sharply wake to an awful sensation as I changed position through the night. Day and night I would become obsessive with applying copious amounts of Vaseline, to prevent my glans from sticking to clothing and bedsheets.
For a while I regretted my decision to go through with circumcision. I missed my foreskin, I missed normality, I missed being free of pain and the awful hypersensitivity. Becoming circumcised had also taken its toll on my love life, which added further insult to injury.
Thankfully in time, the pain and hypersensitivity subsided. I returned to a normal level of function, although I can say it was over a year before I was completely free of some form of discomfort.
So in terms of my learnings to pass on to other men with phimosis, if I could go back in time I would unquestionably try foreskin stretching instead. It was not suggested to me as an alternative to circumcision, and due to my lack of knowledge related to having a tight foreskin, I went ahead with surgery. Although I cannot say whether I would have been successful with the use of phimosis stretching rings and tools, they appear to have a high success rate, and this would have made me feel like I had exhausted other options at least.
Despite my aggravations and regrets, being circumcised is not terribly bad in the long term. At around 18 months post surgery, all hypersensitivity had diminished, and my love life had returned to almost normal. We are all individuals however, and your experience may differ. Even now, I occasionally miss my pre-circumcised life. I've been advised that its even possible to re-grow your foreskin after circumcision, by using something called a TLCtugger. I guess the human body is so incredible in its willingness to adapt, that we can sometimes develop products to correct our anatomical variations without needing to cut and sew.
I hope that talking about my experience may help men feel that they have more control over their issue. Whatever you decide, be the master of your own body and always make educated decisions.