Smegma
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Smelly white fluid on your genitalia: It could be smegma

Have you noticed a white, sticky substance on your genitals? It could be smegma, a lubricant naturally secreted by our genital glands. If left unattended, it can be painful. Here’s a quick ‘low down’ on how to deal with it.
Is it a disease?

Our bodies have a unique way of cleaning themselves and secretion of various fluids is one such mechanism. Strictly speaking, smegma is formed of dead skin cells and fatty oils mainly shed from certain parts of human genitalia.

In men, it is present in the inner cavity of the foreskin while in women it is found in the folds of the labia minora and clitoris. If a person does not wash their genitalia, the bacteria gets accumulated along with urine, dead skin cells, and emit a sulfur-like rotten cheese smell.

What causes smegma?

Our bodies excrete oil from skin, known as sebum. It coats our skin against microbial infections and keeps the skin waterproof. Smegma too is such an excretion and you will be surprised to know that it is actually beneficial for sex because it acts as a lubricant. In males, smegma protects the penis by preventing it from sticking it to the nearby skin and allows for natural pulling back of the foreskin during activities such as urination.

However, like all oils, smegma needs cleaning up. Without regular wash, smegma can result in smelly bacterial growth, also known as a smegma build-up.

How can I get rid of it?

If your penis regularly smells bad, think smegma. If left uncleaned, the bacteria from dead skin cells combine with oils and grow very quickly resulting in bad odour.

To avoid this, clean your penis regularly while bathing and wash it with cold water by pulling back the foreskin. Regular cleaning of the penis will eliminate the problem completely. It’s really as simple. Also, avoid the use of strong soaps/gels to clean the build-up of smegma. Just plain water is usually enough. Also, do not retract the foreskin for too long while cleaning.

Just like men, females too can remove smegma build-up by cleaning their vagina with warm water and maintaining good hygiene.

Who is at risk?

People who have not undergone circumcision are at a greater risk of a smegma build-up. In the absence of circumcision, smegma is accumulated in excess quantity under the foreskin. It also further results in balanitis – a problem occurring in the upper part of the penis, causing inflammation and irritation of the penis. The condition is often caused by an overgrowth of either bacteria or yeast because of improper hygiene.

It can also result in balanoposthitis or inflammation of the foreskin. The symptoms include the occurrence of red spots in the upper part of the penis followed by inflammation. Although a simple smegma build-up does not hurt, conditions such as balanitis or balanoposthitis cause pain and a doctor should be consulted immediately on the appearance of any such symptoms.

If left untreated, balanitis and balanoposthitis can result in scarring and possibly phimosis – where the foreskin becomes stuck over the head of the penis and cannot be moved back.

Is it just a male problem?

No it isn’t but teenage boys and young adult men can tend to ignore hygiene habits, some even feeling proud for not bathing for days! However, the more one ignores their penis hygiene, greater is the risk of a smegma build-up. The level of smegma production accelerates during puberty and into adulthood though it diminishes with age.

This condition can also ruin your sex life. A foul-smelling penis is not what your partner wants during sex and you can certainly bid goodbye to any oral sex acts.  

*Person in the picture is a model

Do you have any more questions on smegma or any other such condition? Share your problems with us in the comments section or on our Facebook page. If you have a specific question, please visit our discussion forum

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