Prevalence of Phimosis in Males of All Ages: Systematic Review

Urology. 2020 Jan;135:124-132. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2019.10.003. Epub 2019 Oct 23.


Context: Phimosis is considered virtually universal in newborn males and likely to resolve within a few years. Persistent phimosis can result in pain, sexual dysfunctions, increased risk of penile inflammatory conditions and penile cancer. There are two forms - primary phimosis and secondary phimosis - the latter often representing a consequence of lichen sclerosis, diabetes and obesity.

Objectives: To conduct a systematic review to determine the prevalence of phimosis at different ages.

Data sources: PubMed, Google Scholar, the Cochrane Library, and bibliographies of original studies were searched using the keyword phimosis.

Study selection: Studies containing original data on phimosis at any age.

Data extraction: Two reviewers independently verified study design, extracted data and rated studies for quality.

Results: Forty-three eligible studies were included: 27 from PubMed, 4 from Google Scholar, and 12 from bibliography searches. Phimosis was reported in most newborns, then gradually decreased in prevalence. Most studies did not differentiate primary from secondary phimosis, so values reported were net phimosis prevalence. There were 13 studies with data for males age ≥18 years. In all, 962 of 17,136 men had been diagnosed with phimosis (range 0.5%-13%). A random effects model found risk of phimosis in men was 3.4% (95% CI 1.8-6.6).

Conclusion: Phimosis takes many years to resolve. Apart from spontaneous resolution, clinical interventions also contribute to the gradual reduction in prevalence among uncircumcised boys. The wide range of phimosis prevalence reported in adulthood may reflect variability in the extent of foreskin-preserving treatment of phimosis in different study cohorts.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus / complications
  • Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Phimosis / epidemiology*
  • Phimosis / etiology
  • Prevalence