Is Adult Circumcision Safe?

January 25,2024 |
man putting on watch

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, which is the skin that covers the tip of the penis. There are some benefits of circumcision, but it's not practiced everywhere around the world. In the United States, it's quite common. About 58% of newborn boys undergo circumcision shortly after birth in the U.S., but up to 80% of males between 14 and 59 are circumcised. Some parents decide to wait and give their children the choice later in life. Others have the procedure done after a few months. Although it's a fairly straightforward surgery, it can still be a bit nerve-wracking to think about. If you're considering circumcision as an adult, you may be wondering whether it's safe and what the risks and benefits are. Here, we'll go over everything you need to know about adult circumcision.

What is Adult Circumcision?

Adult circumcision is the same surgical procedure that's performed on newborns. Circumcision removes the foreskin from the head of the penis and may be done for religious reasons, cultural beliefs, hygienic benefits, or other health-related reasons.

When is Circumcision Usually Performed?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risk of complications, but ultimately, it is up to the parents. Newborn circumcision is usually performed within the first ten days of a baby's life—oftentimes within the first 48 hours following delivery. It's completed in the hospital before families go home. If you're considering circumcision for your child, it's important to talk to your pediatrician or obstetrician to understand any related information on pediatric urology ahead of time. Other families will have the circumcision performed at home with a religious ritual.

Older boys and adults can also undergo circumcision. Circumcision in adult males can be performed at any age. However, getting the procedure later in life can make the recovery more challenging.

Why is Adult Circumcision Performed?

Having an uncircumcised penis isn't a bad thing, and many individuals who haven't had surgery see it as unnecessary. Some cultural beliefs even find male circumcision to be disfiguring. However, there are many reasons for circumcision that adults may consider, which is why it's ultimately a personal decision.

Circumcision is deeply rooted in Jewish and Islamic religions. It's also common among aboriginal tribes across Africa and in Australia. Depending on their circumstances, some men may want to undergo the procedure in adulthood for religious or cultural reasons.

Circumcision may also be recommended due to one or more medical reasons. In a condition called phimosis, the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back or retracted over the glans. If left untreated, this can cause irritation, bleeding, painful urination, painful erections, urinary retention, and more. If this occurs, your doctor will need to remove the foreskin to reduce the risk of persistent or painful complications.

Circumcision is a fairly simple procedure that can be performed at any age. Still, speaking with your doctor and fully understanding the benefits and risks is important.

Benefits of Adult Circumcision

As mentioned, there are several reasons that an adult may want to consider circumcision. The most notable benefits of circumcision include:

Adherence to Personal or Cultural Beliefs

One of the biggest benefits of undergoing circumcision in adulthood is the adherence to personal, cultural, or religious beliefs. Some adults may even want to undergo the procedure for aesthetic reasons, meaning they prefer the look of a circumcised penis.

Decreased Risk of Urinary Tract Infections

Although it's already quite low in men, circumcision can help further lower the risk of urinary tract infections. Circumcised men can still get a UTI, so it's important to talk to your doctor if you experience any symptoms. When left untreated, UTIs can result in kidney infections and other complications.

Easier Hygiene and Care

Contrary to what some say, circumcision doesn't affect sexual function or sensitivity. Men who have undergone the procedure report similar levels of sexual pleasure as before. However, hygiene associated with circumcision is better and makes caring for the area easier, as you don't need to clean underneath the foreskin.

Decreased Risk of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), circumcision may help reduce the risk of HIV through vaginal sex. Circumcision can also result in a lower risk of certain STIs, but should not be a justification for unsafe sex. Performing circumcision does not protect against catching any STIs, so it's still important to practice safe sex.

Eliminates the Risk of Penile Issues

In addition to reducing the occurrence of phimosis, circumcision can help eliminate the risk of other penile-related issues. The procedure can also eliminate the risk of paraphimosis, which is when the foreskin becomes trapped while in a retracted position. It's considered a medical emergency that needs to be treated as soon as possible. Balanitis is characterized by inflammation of the foreskin, which can put pressure on the head of the penis and result in irritation or even infection. Circumcision can treat and prevent these issues.

Lower Risk of Penile Cancer

Circumcised men also seem to have a lower risk of penile cancer. Although cancer of the penis is quite rare in general, it's still considered a benefit of circumcision.

Potential Risks of Adult Circumcision

There are also a few complications of circumcision procedures. Although rare and often short-lived, it's important to talk to your doctor to fully understand the risks of the procedure.

  • Lingering Pain
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Wound Complication
  • Anesthesia-Related Complications
  • Foreskin Reattachment

Neonatal circumcision is often less complicated, and the body can recover more easily. Older boys and men who choose to undergo circumcision should talk to their doctors about recovery time, as it tends to increase as you age.

What to Expect During the Procedure

After weighing the possible risks and benefits, you may want to proceed with the procedure. Luckily, circumcision only takes 30 to 60 minutes, and the recovery is relatively straightforward.

Circumcision in adult males is performed under general anesthesia, so you'll be completely asleep and won't feel any pain. Once the anesthesia kicks in, your surgeon will move the foreskin toward the base of the penis to take accurate measurements for skin removal. Then, using a scalpel, your surgeon will cut the excess skin away, stitch it up, and wrap it in gauze or protective dressings to heal. If there are no complications, you can return home the same day.

Recovery After Adult Circumcision Surgery

You can expect swelling and bruising around the surgical site the first few days after the procedure. To help, your doctor may recommend applying an ice pack at various intervals—usually 10 to 20 minutes every two hours. You'll need to keep the dressings clean to reduce the risk of bleeding and infection. On day two or three, your doctor may have you return to have the dressings replaced and to check your recovery progress. If you notice any worrisome symptoms or experience any signs of infection before this, it's important to call your doctor immediately.

The total recovery time can vary, but most men can return to normal activities after about two to three weeks. However, following your doctor's treatment plan and taking it easy is important. Taking at least a week off work is recommended, especially if your job is physically demanding. You will likely need to refrain from exercising or strenuous activity for at least four weeks. Additionally, you will need to wait to engage in sexual intercourse and masturbation for up to six weeks following the surgery.

Reach out to your doctor if you have specific questions, and follow their instructions carefully to avoid experiencing unnecessary complications, infections, or other issues. In addition to postsurgical care instructions, your doctor will likely prescribe you an antibiotic to help prevent infection. They may also recommend a mild pain reliever, but high pain levels can indicate a complication. If you're in doubt about anything, contact your healthcare provider.


If you're interested in adult circumcision, talk to your doctor and have them explain the risks and benefits for your circumstances. This is the best way to make an informed decision. If you're experiencing urological symptoms, it's important to understand the cause before undergoing surgery. Your doctor will discuss your treatment options to help manage any urologic disorder or condition. To help, Byram Healthcare offers a wide selection of high-quality urologic supplies that can be discreetly delivered to your door. Browse our urology product catalog today or call one of our representatives for more information.