Smegma: 3 Alarming Health Issues and Prevention


A human body is quite amazing, and it possesses self-cleaning properties. Our body releases substances and scents to help us determine the condition of our health. But, sometimes, a fishy odor could indicate that something is wrong. 

What is Smegma?

Smegma occurs naturally over the genitals of both men and women. It is a thick, white, cheesy substance that collects under the foreskin of the penis, on the penis tip, or in the folds of the vagina.

Smegma is the result of the accumulation of dead skin cells, oil secretions, and other fluids.

If the accumulation continues, smegma can become smelly or lead to an infection. As a result, it may lead to painful side effects, sexual problems, and damaged relationships.

Hence, periodical cleaning of the body parts is necessary.

Read: How to maintain hygiene and enhance sexual power.

Who is at Risk and Common Problems?

Smegma most commonly develops in uncircumcised men.  However, bacteria may grow in it, and the body parts may start smelling fishy. Those bacteria can also make the head of the penis swell up and hurt.

Some medical researchers believed that secretions building up underneath an intact foreskin might contain harmful compounds that can lead to cancer.

But, the recent studies have concluded that the penile cancer is not caused by the collections of secretions. However, it does increases the risk of cancer.

What is in Smegma?

Sebaceous glands in the penis or vagina discharge smegma to lubricate these parts of the body. It consists of epithelial debris, fatty oils, and proteins. Smegma itself is neither damaging nor an irritating substance, and also not carcinogenic.

Here is a detailed study published in The Circumcision Reference Library, debunking the myth.

The rancid, opaque white or yellow substance is very vital because without it the resultant friction during intercourse could result in penile injury or skin abrasion, leading to discomfort and soreness in the most sensitive areas of the body.  

Smegma aids in sexual functioning and protects the penis or clitoris. It prevents it from sticking to the adjacent skin and allows the seamless retraction of the foreskin during urination.

What Causes Smegma?

Smegma accumulation does not cause a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or any type of infection. Instead, in both men and women, it results from poor personal hygiene.

Our body naturally releases numerous fluids every day. If these fluids are not washed away regularly, it may start to accumulate and harden. Hence, you must wash your penis or vagina regularly to avoid this build-up.

What Health Problems it Causes?

Inflammation – Red and sore foreskin area due to forced retraction.

Infection – Smegma fuels the growth of infection-causing germs, including posthitis and balanitis. Balanitis (swelling of the glans) and balanoposthitis (soreness of the foreskin) could also result from smegma build-up. These health issues may require medical attention and are very painful.

Sometimes, such problems are treated with little long-term consequences.

In men, smegma build-up could cause some serious infection. Additionally, sexually transmitted diseases (STD) can lead to a sudden build-up of this cheesy substance, as can yeast infections. 

Phimosis – Recurrent infection could result in scarring and possibly phimosis, a condition in which the foreskin can’t be retracted over the head of the penis. This could result in recurrent balanitis as the condition makes it difficult to maintain good hygiene. An erection may cause the foreskin to split and bleed.

The tight foreskin due to secretion accumulation could also hinder urination. The foreskin adheres over the head of the penis and can’t be retracted.

In severe cases, phimosis may even require surgery for resolution. It is a distressing condition that could have a huge impact on marriage. 

Always remember that smegma, in its natural element, doesn’t have an odor. A very off-putting smell may result due to an infection.

How to Prevent Smegma Build-up?

Maintaining good hygiene is the best way to prevent the condition. One must properly clean the penis, including under and around the foreskin. Use warm water and natural soap to wash the genitals.