anonymous on September 2, 2011

What do I need to know about getting circumcised as an adult?

I was not circumcised as a child. I'm 19 now and was wondering if it was possible to have it done as an adult. If so, would it change my sensitivity during sex?

answered by David Sobel, MD, JD on September 2, 2011

Thanks for sharing your question with us. There are both health benefits and risks to being circumcised...and circumcision in adulthood may heal slightly differently than circumcision in infancy (e.g., you’re likely to have a larger area of scar tissue).

First, a little background...while many men in the U.S. have been circumcised, the practice is not as prevalent in some other countries. In a survey of American men conducted between 1999 and 2004, theNational Health and Nutrition Examination found that 21% hadn’t been circumcised...globally, that figure is closer to 75%. That said, the number of uncircumcised newborns in the U.S. has been growing every year since 1970.

So, what are some possible benefits of a circumcised penis? Medical studies have linked circumcision to lower rates of urinary tract infections (UTIs), penis cancer and some skin conditions on the penis, as well as improved cleanliness and hygiene, and a lower rate of some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In fact, a study that followed men in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda who were circumcised in adulthood found that circumcisionmay reduce the risk of catching HIV by 50-60% (of course, more research still needs to be done, and using condoms is still the best way to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.)

What are some potential risks of being circumcised? Although rare, surgically removing the foreskin could result in temporary pain during the procedure, excessive bleeding, too much or too little skin removed, or cosmetic issues. Reports vary on how circumcision affects the sensitivity of the tip of the penis, but most research indicates that it doesn’t change much, if at all.  

One more thing...if you get circumcised, most healthcare providers recommend not having any kind of sexual activity for 4-6 weeks to allow for recovery and healing. Having an erection too soon after surgery can cause pain and discomfort, and possible rupturing of the sutures.

If you’re interested in adult male circumcision, I would encourage you to speak with your doctor or urologist about your individual circumstances.

Thanks again for writing, and I wish you good luck in making the best decision for you.

Topic: Men's Sexual Health

David Sobel, MD, JD

Dr. Sobel is a Colorado-based urologist and Director of the Denver Center for Men’s Health. His areas of expertise include men's sexual health and all areas of urology, including urologic oncology, treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy, stone disease and incontinence. Dr. Sobel was educated at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and completed his residency at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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