Circumcision–A new perspective | Elders at Risk for Infection

July 16, 2012

circumcision glasses2 150x150 Circumcision  A new perspective | Elders at Risk for InfectionI witness many conversations, both professionally and socially, regarding infant circumcision.  In all of the discussions, no one mentions how circumcision, or the lack of, impacts a man when he has aged and can no longer care for himself.

One of the most gut wrenching experiences of my hospital career came when I was a nurse’s aide on a medical/surgical floor.  A stoic elderly man was transferred to my unit from a nursing home and it was my responsibility to remove his street clothes and dress him in a hospital gown.  The stench of gangrene filled the room and overwhelmed me when I removed his pants.  He was too sick to communicate with words but looked at me with soft eyes and an apologetic face.  I discovered a severe infection that fused the meatus inside the foreskin.  I alerted the nurse to what I had found and she delegated the laborious task of cleaning to me.  It took hours of warm compresses followed by excruciating crust removal.  I apologized repeatedly and when tears flowed from beneath his thick horn-rimmed glasses, I cried too.

I will never forget this experience and I offer it to others when they consider circumcision.  The elderly population, specifically 85 years and older, is growing at a rapid rate in the United States.  Men are living longer than ever and the health care system is struggling to keep up.  Hospitals, rehabs and nursing homes are filled with patients who need increasing assistance with activities of daily living.  Dementia, incontinence, decreased sensation, and impaired vision are risk factors which can lead to infection in the uncircumcised elderly male.  Lack of awareness in this area by family and/or overworked, underpaid nursing home staff contributes to the problem.

Parents who are considering circumcision should examine the consequences for a child at different stages of life.  The discomfort of circumcision for an infant may be minor compared to the loss of dignity and pain experienced by the uncircumcised elder.  Parents can honor their child by making a decision that outreaches their lifetime; one that allows their baby to face his twilight years with grace.

[View comments below and click to read Circumcision Part II.]


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Comments (7)

  1. Here is a study published in Urologic Nursing [Urol Nurs. 2012;32(1):10-18] which discusses circumcision with regard to preventing the spread of AIDS. There is some interesting info here about the history of circumcision.

  2. Glad you gave your patient tender care. But I do think that this case points more what is lacking in the system (time, skilled attendants, knowledge) rather than that this gentleman escaped RIC. I can imagine infections/conditions of all kinds might thrive in a struggling system. For men and women. If these stresses on “the system” look unsolvable, maybe it would be more fair to offer adult circumcision upon being eligible for medicare. (If our leaders allow it to still exist) That way, men don’t miss out on a whole lifetime of benefits of having a foreskin. Was wondering if you are in communication with any nurses in Europe anywhere. Do they feel the same way? Most men in Europe are not circumcised, so I wonder how common problems are for them, as they age.

  3. Wait a minute… because there’s anecdotal evidence that one elderly man with poor health care had an infection, we conclude that all little boys should have their genitals mutilated? If this were being done to women, you can bet it would be a huge gender issue, as it is in 3rd world countries. Just because circumcision is done in hospitals and is covered by insurance does not change the fact that it is genital mutilation which greatly impacts a man’s sexual experience as an adult, which in turn impacts relationships, marriages, divorces, family structure along the way. Stop mutilating our baby boys! Yes, we need to address the horrible state of health care, elderly care, and poorly staffed for-profit nursing homes. That’s not news. Don’t take it out on the penises.

  4. Your blondness is perfectly matched with your intelligence. From one man’s poor hygiene we conclude we must cut up little boys’ penises. Hey, my daughters have gotten yeast infections, should I go get the scissors, blondie? Dear lord, you need help.

    • Thank you for reading the blog and providing feedback. I’d like to clarify for you that no where in the post do I suggest anyone get circumcised. I share my experience as a professional for parents to start a conversation about it. It is up to them to make a final decision. I am sorry that you seemed to have missed the point but you were keen to notice my incredibly bright and shiny hair. Thanks for the complement.

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