Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin – the retractable section of skin that surrounds the penis. 

Reasons for circumcision

While circumcision surgery is mostly carried out for cultural-religious reasons during early childhood, the surgery can be performed in adult males for a number of medical reasons, often as a last resort when conservative treatments haven’t helped.

These most commonly include issues such as the foreskin not retracting properly (phimosis), which can cause ongoing irritation and discomfort and difficulty with sexual intercourse, or recurrent infections on the head of the penis (balanitis). Adult circumcision may also be recommended in men when cancer or pre-cancerous conditions are suspected.

The procedure

The procedure is often carried out on a day case basis, meaning you’ll be able to go home later the same day – although if general anaesthetic is used, you may need to stay overnight. During the surgery, the whole foreskin will be carefully removed, leaving the head of the penis exposed. The skin just below the head of the penis will then be stitched closed, with dissolvable stitches that should disappear within 2-3 weeks. Your consultant will discuss with you in advance whether general anaesthetic is required, although the procedure can sometimes be carried out with spinal anaesthetic (to temporarily numb the lower body) or local anaesthetic injections. Whichever method is used, you won’t experience any pain during the procedure and additional pain relief will be provided afterwards.


Swelling and soreness for a few days is normal afterwards, and it can take up to six weeks for the area to heal completely. It’s usually advised that you wait at least four weeks before having sex. Many men experience a slight reduction in sensitivity in the head of the penis following adult circumcision surgery, but find the benefits of the procedure outweigh any cons. It shouldn’t affect your fertility or erectile function.

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