Psychological trauma of circumcision in the phallic period could be avoided by using topical steroids

Int J Urol. 2003 Dec;10(12):651-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1442-2042.2003.00722.x.


Objective: The objective of our study was to assess the efficacy of topical steroids in the treatment of phimosis and evaluate patients using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-III-Revised (DSM-III-R) test with the aim of eliminating castration anxiety of circumcision in the phallic period.

Methods: One hundred and forty-nine children with phimosis who required circumcision were included the study. The average age of the children was 4.47 years. All children underwent the DSM-III-R test and their parents were questioned. Patients were separated randomly into three groups. Group I comprised 51 children who would undergo circumcision; group II comprised 50 children who would be treated with a topical corticosteroid (0.05% bethamethasone cream) twice daily for 1 month; and group III comprised 48 children who would be treated with a topical placebo cream. On the 5th day of treatment, parents were told to retract the prepuce and were given hygiene routine instructions. Patients were seen immediately after treatment and again 2 months later.

Results: In group II, 16 of the 50 children had non-retractable prepuce. Forty-two cases of phimosis were corrected after treatment. Eight patients received further monthly treatment and five benefited from the second course of treatment. In group III, 17 of the 48 patients had non-retractable prepuce and four had satisfactory results. Forty-four patients received placebo treatment for another month and eventually, 40 children underwent circumcision in this group. DSM-III-R test results showed a significant shift to anxiety in the circumcision group. The were no significant differences in the other groups.

Conclusion: Topical steroids for the treatment of phimosis is a highly effective treatment alternative to surgery. It avoids or delays circumcision and can be practised during the phallic period to decrease castration anxiety. The treatment is suitable for patients from any religious or cultural background.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Age Factors
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / prevention & control*
  • Betamethasone / administration & dosage*
  • Castration
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Circumcision, Male / adverse effects*
  • Circumcision, Male / psychology
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phimosis / drug therapy*
  • Phimosis / surgery
  • Psychosexual Development*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Betamethasone