What is circumcision? Why is circumcision performed?
Circumcision means the procedure of surgical removal of the foreskin that covers the head of the penis. If done for a newborn, the procedure takes about five to 20 minutes. Circumcision for an adult takes about one hour. The wound healing from the circumcision surgery generally occurs in five to seven days.
This procedure is a religious as well as a cultural ritual for the followers of the Jewish religion as well as Islam. Certain aboriginal tribes in Africa and Australia too practice this ritual. Nowadays though, people irrespective of religion and tribe may opt for this procedure as a matter of personal hygiene or preventive health care.
In certain parts of Africa, circumcision is recommended for older boys or men to reduce the risk of certain sexually transmitted infections.
Circumcision is a topic of debate among many experts with some claiming there health benefits to this procedure and others saying that there are more risks than benefits.
Regardless, the practice of circumcision continues.
Isn't circumcision just a little snip?
It is not a simple snip.
The circumcision procedure usually involves the following steps:
- At the outset, the doctor administers topical anesthesia.
- Once the anesthesia takes effect the doctor separates the foreskin from the head of the penis also called glans to fully expose the coronal groove (the ridge that defines the glans of the penis). This step is only performed on young boys, whose glans and foreskin have not fully separated.
- He removes any smegma (white pasty substance made up of dead cells, which holds the foreskin and glans together).
- Following this, the doctor replaces the foreskin in its normal position (i.e. covering the glans).
- The doctor then makes a cut in the foreskin on the upper side of the penis using scissors.
- He makes a second slit is made on the underside of the penis.
- He cuts away the foreskin around the rim of the coronal groove.
- He then pulls back the edges of the foreskin.
- Using absorbable stitches, the doctor ties the blood vessels.
- Finally, he stitches the edges of the foreskin.
What are the complications that may arise after circumcision?
Some complications of circumcision include:
- the risk of infection (especially for a child)
- the risk of hemorrhage (especially for a child)
- buried penis (entrapment of the penis by scar tissue)
- blocked urinary flow
- chafing and abrasion of the exposed glans against clothing
- desensitization that can severely reduce the enjoyment of sexual activity (for an adult male). In fact, it has been observed that men who have undergone circumcision as an adult often experience less pleasure while having sex compared to the sexual experience before the circumcision
- abrasion of the exposed glans against clothing
- painful erections due to the tightened skin (for an adult male)
What are the benefits of circumcision?
Circumcision might have various health benefits, including:
- makes genital hygiene easier
- decreases the risk of urinary tract infections in infancy
- decreases the risk of penile cancer
- decreases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including female-to-male transmission of HIV
- decreases the risk of cervical cancer and some infections in female partners
- prevents penile problems such as balanitis, phimosis, and paraphimosis
Is there an age limit for undergoing circumcision?
Men can be circumcised at any age. Children too can be circumcised at any age.
What is the recovery time for adults after circumcision?
It will take a week or up to 10 days. It is generally suggested that the patient undertakes moderate activity following circumcision for a week and avoid any form of strenuous activity.
What is the recovery time for an infant after circumcision?
Every child heals differently; it can take up to a month for the penis to appear fully healed.
What to expect as your child heals after a circumcision?
Once your child is circumcised, the surgeon dresses the area. The dressing is usually lubricated to prevent it from sticking to the glans. The gauze usually falls off on its own within 24 hours.
Over the following days, your child will heal from the surgery in stages. It can take upto a month for the penis to heal completely. Within a day of the surgery, the bleeding stops. You may notice a colour change in the glans after the surgery since the glans is now exposed. It may appear to be darker. If there is any swelling of the penis it usually disappears within a week. The penis may also appear to be of a smaller size after the circumcision because the skin surrounding the penis is relaxed while before the circumcision the foreskin held the penis more erect.
As an adult what care should you take after undergoing a circumcision?
After undergoing circumcision as an adult there are a few guidelines you need to follow:
- Take your medicines on time including your antibiotics and pain medicines as directed by the doctor.
- During the first week or for at least 10 days after the surgery do not perform any strenuous activity.
- The doctor may advise you to avoid shower for a day or two. Though the directions may vary from doctor to doctor. Please follow your doctor’s advice on the matter. Do not take a tub bath till the doctor okays it. Once you are allowed to take a shower carefully wash the incisions with soap and water everyday.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes such as briefs or tight shorts for a few days.
- You may have to wait upto six weeks to have sex or masturbate after the surgery. You may face slight discomfort while having sex for the first time after the surgery.
Questions answered by trusted doctors
Did you know?
Circumcision widely practiced by followers of Islam
Circumcision is common among the followers of Islam in India. It is not widely practiced by men of other religions.
HIV rates higher among uncircumcised vs circumcised people
HIV rates among those not circumcised are two to eight times higher than in those groups which practice circumcision.
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