Circumcision is a surgical procedure in which the foreskin of the penis is removed. This operation typically takes place shortly after birth, but can be done at any time in a man's life. There are different methods of performing a circumcision, each giving a different result. A tight circumcision, for example, is one that leaves as little of the foreskin behind as possible.
The different types of circumcision are referred to in two ways. The first denotes how much skin is left behind after the procedure; a tight circumcision has less remaining skin than a loose one. The second term refers to the location of the incision and the resulting scar. High circumcisions leave a scar around the penis closer to the abdomen, while low circumcisions result in scarring just behind the glans, or head, of the penis.
Doctors may recommend circumcision if certain medical conditions are present. If the infant displays genital birth defects, such as an improperly positioned urethra, a bend in the penis or no separation of penile and scrotal skin, a circumcision is often performed at the same time as the corrective surgery. Medically recommended circumcision may occur later in life as well, for example in cases such as phimosis, in which the foreskin is too tight to allow for proper retraction. The procedure is often delayed until puberty, by which time the foreskin should be able to be pulled back fully. Performing the surgery before then may result in a tight circumcision removing too much skin.
Studies about the advantages and disadvantages of circumcision in healthy infants give mixed results. For this reason, most doctors neither recommend nor discourage routine circumcision. The decision to circumcise or not is typically left to the infant's parents, who may take religious, cultural and other factors, such as whether the child's father or older brothers are circumcised, into account.
Uncircumcised adult men may choose to undergo the procedure for a number of reasons. Those whose motives are purely cosmetic often favor tight circumcision because it leaves the glans exposed at all times, giving the bare look typically associated with a circumcised penis. A tight circumcision also prevents the accumulation of smegma, a sebaceous secretion that can accumulate beneath the foreskin of an uncircumcised or loosely circumcised man, and may reduce the number of urinary tract infections the man experiences. Proper hygiene practices can eliminate both of these problems in most cases.