Meatal stenosis. Go ahead, say it out loud. Doesn’t really sound like something you want to invite over for dinner, much less be prescribed for surgery, right?
Recently, television host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel revealed to a panel at SXSW Festival that he once underwent two surgeries to correct his case of this condition. Kimmel may be a funny man, but there’s nothing funny about this penile complication, which affects the meatus by causing a narrowing and, in his case, closure of the urinary opening.
Thankfully, the dangerous condition is largely preventable in your own sons by simply saying “No” to routine circumcision.
How Does Meatal Stenosis Happen?
It occurs after a circumcision when “the newly exposed tip of the penis (including the meatus) suffers mild injury as it rubs against a diaper or the child’s own skin,” resulting in chronic irritation and build-up of scarring (Foundation of American Urological Association). The primary methods of treating this apparently common condition involve undergoing a meatoplasty or meatotomy (an operation that divides the lower portion of the meatus, allowing a surgically-created slit wide enough to simulate natural passage of urine).
Though one imagines how amputating more than half of the skin on one’s penis would inevitably result in negative and unnatural consequence, Jimmy Kimmel acted in his interview as if he was completely unaware as to the most likely cause of meatal stenosis — as it were, male neotnatal circumcision.
“It just kind of closed up on it’s own,” Kimmel said. “I don’t know why it happened. I still don’t know why.”
But… how could that be? Didn’t he see a doctor?
“Meatal stenosis is reported by some 1 to be the commonest complication of circumcision, although its incidence is unclear. Some major series analysing the results of circumcision 2,3 have even failed to recognize meatal stenosis as a possible complication.” – British Journal of Urology, Vol. 75, Num. 1: Pgs 91-3. Jan. 1995.
Perhaps he did know more than he was telling and wished to keep the situation as private as possible (I’m sure my post isn’t helping — sorry, Jimmy). And maybe Jimmy was indeed circumcised for a valid medical reason (assuming he was in fact the ONE man who requires a medically-indicated circumcision for an actually valid health reason — the one in every 16,667 men. In any case, his sentiment about the corrective surgeries remains:
“It’s a horrible process by the way—a horrible horrible process,” Kimmel said.
Frequency of Incidence
“Meatal stenosis is most commonly associated with circumcision and is rarely seen in uncircumcised males.” – Foundation of American Urological Association
Okay, but how common is it, really? Turns out that meatal stenosis is one of the most common later-term complications, accounting for 26% overall. According to this study published by Pediatric Journal of Urology, based on 132 circumcised children aged 5-10 who “presented at [the] pediatric clinic for reasons other than urinary complaints,” found that 20.4% had severe meatal stenosis.
“The frequency of this complication and the need for surgical correction need to be disclosed as part of the informed consent for neonatal circumcision. A careful meatal examination is indicted in any circumcised boy with abdominal or urinary complaints.” – Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2006 Jan-Feb;45(1):49-54.
Other Late-Term Complications
Many of the short-term effects and risks of neonatal circumcision surgery are frequently noted (excessive bleeding, infection, iatrogenic hypospadias, glanular necrosis, glanular amputation, and many more here — including death). However, the long-term and later-appearing complications are not as publicized to the very people responsible for consenting to (and paying for) the surgery.
“While the meatus may appear small, it can open adequately during voiding; this explains why most children with meatal stenosis do not present until after toilet training,” according to this PubMed article.
Other later-presenting effects of circumcision (especially neonatal) include:
- Anatomical – Chordee (bending of the penis), skin bridges and skin tags, buried (concealed) penis, lymphedema, inclusion cysts, urethrocutaneous fistula, wound infection, pubic hair on the shaft skin due to tight circumcision, urinary retention, meatal ulcer, edema of the glans, granoloma, penile adhesions, penile rotation, etc.
- Sexual – Erectile dysfunction, tight and painful erections due to insufficient amount of skin left, causing vaginal dryness in a female sex partners (as well as “orgasm difficulties, dyspareunia and a sense of incomplete sexual needs fulfillment”), loss of penile sensitivity, keratinization and drying out of the glans surface, masturbatory difficulty, etc.
- Emotional & Social – Alexithymia (clinical inability to process emotions), post-traumatic stress disorder (once known as combat neurosis), post-traumatic anxiety, etc. Also worthy of further analyzing:
“[L]ow self-esteem, to avoid intimacy in male-female relationships, and a higher incidence of divorce.46 …a higher incidence of unnecessary surgery, and of adult violence, including suicide, rape, and murder.” (Goldman 1997).
“[M]en harbor rage toward their mothers for their circumcision. [A] connection [was identified] between sexual violence, rape, and neonatal circumcision.47 ” – (Baker 1996).
“[P]erinatal circumcision trauma with increases in teenage suicide and social violence.48 “– (DeMause 1996).
What’s the main reason for the seemingly never-ending list of possible circum-crises? I’ll paraphrase pathologist Ken McGrath’s explanation from the Ninth International Symposium on Circumcision, Genital Integrity and Human Rights in Seattle in 2006:
- No two penises are alike, alas circumcision outcomes are unique. This is a huge problem because the surgical procedure is standardized, while the person conducting it is an individual with personal technique not equivalent to others.
- A neonatal circumcision can never have a genuinely predictable functional or aesthetic outcome as it’s performed on the immaturely developed, tiny newborn organ, which expects to grow at least three times its size in puberty.
- Wound healing and scar formation are processes unique to each body, as well as reaction to iatrogenic infection.
- The performing operator typically doesn’t follow up with the minor child to assess for late-term complications, which would require a waiting period of at least a decade.
Finally, I want to point out that the reason this list exists at all is because parents continue to check the “Yes” box on their child’s circumcision consent form. Please research; know better; do better.
“Clinical presentation and pathophysiology of meatal stenosis following circumcision” – British Journal of Urology
“Incidence of asymptomatic meatal stenosis in children following neonatal circumcision” – Journal of Pediatric Urology
“My Son Is Circumcised and I Support The MGM Bill” – Katie Macon for Dr. Momma
“Physicians Guide to The Normal (Intact) Penis” – Doctors Opposing Circumcision
Late-Term Circumcision Complications
“Acquisition of Erectile Dysfunction From Circumcision” – based on a study in the International Journal of Men’s Health Circumcision Complications (Video)
“Ending Circumcision: Where Sex and Violence First Meet” – J.P. Baker
“Long-Term Adverse Affects of Circumcision” – Doctors Opposing Circumcision
“Restaging fetal traumas in war and social violence” – L. DeMause
Male Celebrities Speak Out About Circumcision
Ben Affleck on the Daily Show (Video)
Craig Ferguson on Circumcision (Video)
Read quotes by Gerard Butler, Russell Crowe, Alan Cumming, Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, and more here.