Men who are well-versed in proper penis care may already know that a red penis can be a sign of skin irritation or inflammation. Balanitis is one of the more common causes, especially among men whose foreskins are intact, but there is a variation on this condition - called plasma cell balanitis (and sometimes referred to as Zoon balanitis) - that is less well-known.

Regular balanitis

Balanitis is defined by Medical News Today as "an inflammation of the glans (the rounded head) of the penis." In uncircumcised men, the rate of occurrence is estimated at 1 in 30 males; it is less common among men who have been circumcised. There can be a number of causes, including dermatological reaction, bacteria, infection, unprotected sex and phimosis.

Plasma cell balanitis

Plasma cell balanitis also refers to an inflammation of the glans (and sometimes the foreskin), resulting in a red penis. But in the case of the plasma cell variation, the redness tends to be quite localized, presenting as one single red lesion, usually well-defined. (By contrast, regular balanitis may present as a red "area" or as multiple lesions.)

If a biopsy is performed on the lesion, the microscope will reveal numerous plasma cells making up the red spot. Plasma cells are a kind of white blood cell that originates in the bone marrow. Their purpose is to create antibodies that fight infectious agents in the body. They have a distinctive look that makes them easy for scientists to identify (under the microscope of course; they are too small to be seen with the naked eye).

Plasma cell balanitis was first described in 1952 by a Dutch scientist named Zoon. A similar condition can exist in women, although it is then called plasma cell vulvitis.


Although the red lesion is a typical sign, there are few other symptoms associated with the condition. Some men complain of tenderness in the area, and for some the presence of the lesion also results in itchiness. Irritation may be experienced by the friction associated with intercourse, especially if no condom is employed. (The condom typically lessens the degree of friction.)


Doctors believe that plasma cell balanitis may occur as a result of an underlying issue. However, it is also more likely to happen when dried urine, soap or skin particles get trapped on the glans beneath the foreskin.

This form of balanitis is one which can go away and return with some frequency. Although it is not dangerous and doesn’t usually cause significant discomfort, it tends to mar the appearance of a man’s penis. Of greater concern, it may cause a partner to worry if the affected man has a sexually transmitted infection, which may hamper their willingness to engage in sex.


A doctor can prescribe an appropriate course of treatment. Typical options include using topical antibiotics or antifungal medications, as well as steroid creams. In some cases, a doctor may recommend laser surgery; however, this last option is not prescribed that often.

The red penis that results from a case of plasma cell balanitis may indicate other related factors which a man may need to tend to. Daily use of a top notch penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil, which is clinically proven mild and safe for skin) can help maintain the overall health of the organ and alleviate some of these effects. For example, dry skin often accompanies this condition, so keeping the penis moisturized is advised. A crème is better able to accomplish this if it combines both a natural hydrating agent (such as vitamin E) with a high end emollient (such as Shea butter, derived from the fruit of the Shea tree). It’s also wise to select a crème with vitamin A, as the antibacterial properties can help eliminate agents that irritate the red penis and worsen its appearance and any discomfort.