A buried penis is a penis that’s covered by excess skin in the pubic area or scrotum. The scrotum is the sac of skin that surrounds the testicles. The penis is usually of normal length and function, but it’s hidden.

The condition can be caused by:

  • excess fat
  • fluid retention
  • problems with ligaments
  • complications after a circumcision

It can affect urination and sexual arousal, but it’s usually treatable with surgery. Buried penis can also cause embarrassment and psychological harm.

A buried penis can result from several causes. They include:

  • Too much or not enough foreskin is removed during circumcision. The remaining skin around the penis may be pulled forward, hiding the penis.
  • The ligaments that attach the penis to the body are abnormally weak.
  • Swelling of the scrotum caused by a buildup of lymph fluid (lymphedema) can bury the penis.
  • Excessive fat in a male who is obese may cover the penis.

It doesn’t appear that the condition is an inherited trait or has anything to do with a person’s hormones.

If you suspect there may be something unusual about your newborn baby’s penis, delay circumcision until a more thorough examination can be done.

Buried penis is not common. One study found that it was present in less than 4 percent of newborn boys in Japan. The condition tends to be congenital, which means it’s present when a baby is born. It can also develop in childhood or adulthood, though the incidence of buried penis among older boys and men is not well known.

A buried penis can lead to problems urinating in males of any age. Urine may frequently hit the scrotum or thighs. Skin irritation and urinary tract infections can result. The skin on the penis can also become inflamed. Infections, such as balanitis, are also common due to hygiene challenges.

In adolescent and adult males, a buried penis may make it more difficult to achieve an erection. If an erection is possible, it may still be difficult to have sexual intercourse. Psychological problems related to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression commonly affect males with buried penis.

Buried penis can usually be diagnosed with a physical examination. Your doctor should be able to distinguish buried penis from a different condition, known as micropenis, which is a small penis. If you or your child has symptoms of a buried penis, you should consult a doctor.

Surgery is usually necessary to treat buried penis. In very young children, the condition may resolve without any intervention. For morbidly obese children and adults, weight loss may help. However, losing weight usually isn’t enough to completely treat the problem.

If some form of surgery is needed, the surgical options are:

  • detaching the ligaments that connect the base of the penis to the pubic bone
  • performing skin grafts to cover areas of the penis where skin coverage is needed; this can be necessary if circumcision removes too much skin
  • suction lipectomy, which uses catheters to suck out fat cells under the skin from the area around the penis
  • abdominoplasty, where excess fat and skin from the region are removed in a cosmetic surgical procedure that is sometimes called a “tummy tuck
  • panniculectomy, which removes the pannus, the excess tissue and skin that hang over the genitals and thighs
  • escutheonectomy, where the pad of fat just above the pubic area is removed

Antibiotics may be necessary if an infection has developed in the genital area. Also, psychological counseling may be needed if the condition is serious enough that it affects you or your child’s sexual health and self-esteem.

For a better long-term outcome, surgical interventions should be done at a young age. As males age and have more frequent erections and greater fat accumulation in the pubic area, surgical solutions become more challenging. There is no good data on how likely it is that buried penis will resolve on its own by adolescence or adulthood when it’s diagnosed in an infant or young boy.

Successful surgery can make a profound difference in the life of a person living with buried penis. Problems with urination and sexual function are often eliminated. If skin grafts are needed, a period of several weeks is all that’s usually needed for the appearance of the penis to recover.

Once the condition has been treated, it’s unlikely to return in any form. If obesity or other manageable condition was a factor, it will be important to maintain a healthy weight and good health after surgery. You should also discuss proper genital hygiene with your doctor, as well as possible signs of complications or side effects from your treatment.