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Frenulum breve, which is Latin for "little bowstring," is a naturally-occurring condition that affects the penis in uncircumcised men. It prevents full retraction of the foreskin and often causes pain, bruising and tearing, particularly during sex. The condition can be completely resolved with minimally-invasive procedures.
The frenulum preputii penis is the band of skin that connects the glans penis, often called the "head" to the prepuce or foreskin. Normally, the penile frenulum is both long enough and flexible enough to allow the foreskin to retract completely and lie against the shaft of the penis. This action would usually be pain-free and would not strain the skin. Full retraction allows for both easy cleaning of the area and for comfortable movement during sexual activity.
Men with frenulum breve have an unusually short penile frenulum. This means that the foreskin cannot be fully retracted. Any action that forces the foreskin to retract becomes painful and frequently damages the frenulum. Erection, ejaculation and intercourse frequently become painful.
Once the frenulum tears, men with frenulum breve usually experience increasing difficulty. Skin tears are subject to irritation and infection. In addition, tearing usually heals into scar tissue, which is generally even shorter and less flexible than the original skin.
Misconceptions about frenulum breve abound. The condition is often confused with phimosis, a condition in which the foreskin cannot be retracted at all. While the conditions may exist concurrently, the causes are very different. Many men avoid discussing the condition with their doctors because they fear that a circumcision is the only way to treat it or because they feel uncomfortable with the topic. It is important to note that the condition occurs in an estimated five percent of uncircumcised men and that it is treatable through a number of medical procedures, most of which require only local anesthesia.
One option is frenuloplasty in which the frenum is surgically cut and the resulting "loose ends" are stitched to the foreskin. Recovery time for the procedure is usually about two weeks, including resumption of sexual activity. Another option is frenectomy, in which the frenum is removed completely. This may occur in conjunction with a full circumcision, but may also be performed independently.
The most invasive of the options is a full surgical circumcision, in which the entire foreskin is removed. Reported recovery times for adult circumcisions vary significantly, with some men reporting the ability to resume normal sexual activity within as little as two weeks, and others reporting the need for a month or more of recovery time. Some men report limited success with non-surgical frenulum breve treatments, such as exercises and steroid creams.
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