- Questions about sexual and genital health can be tough to ask, so INSIDER talked to a urologist about common questions related to penis size, function, and more.
- He said that most people who worry about penis size and consider surgeries to make their penises bigger are actually normal.
- Erectile dysfunction is typically associated with older people, but it can strike at any age.
- Penises don’t always have symptoms when you have an STD.
The penis is an organ that can be tough to talk about openly – especially if you have worries about its health, size, or how it’s working.
INSIDER spoke with Dr. Aaron Spitz, a urologist and author of “The Penis Book:A Doctor’s Complete Guide to the Penis – From Size to Function and Everything in Between” to answer a handful of questions on penis size, STDs, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, injuries, and more.
Read on for his answers.
Are there any pills that can really make my penis bigger?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
“There are no pills that will increase the size of your penis, but pills will make that claim,” Spitz said. “What they’re really doing is they may increase some blood flow to your penis, so your penis is bigger on its way to becoming erect, but the actual size of the erection is not getting any bigger.”
Can I make my penis larger with surgery?
There are two types of procedures in this category: Those that claim to lengthen the penis, and procedures that claim to make the penis thicker.
In lengthening procedures, a surgeon cuts the suspensory ligament, which attaches the penis to the pubic bone and helps hold the erect penis at an upward angle.
“By severing that ligament, it allows the flaccid penis to drop down a little bit from the pubic bone, but only when it’s flaccid, not when it’s erect,” Spitz said. “[These] procedures are really optical illusions.”
There are procedures that can increase penis girth, he added, but they don’t actually change the size of the corpora cavernosa – the two side-by-side cylinders inside the penis that fill with blood and become rigid during an erection. Instead, a surgeon adds to the soft tissue between those cylinders and the skin, using bulking agents or fat.
“The girth is increased whether it’s flaccid or erect, but it’s not actually making the chambers that become erect [any] larger,” Spitz said.
He also cautioned that surgeries that aren’t done skillfully could result in deformities, scarring, inflammatory reactions, or shortening of the penis. Plus, Spitz said, the “vast majority” of people who are curious about these operations already have a penis that’s normally sized.
How big is the average penis, really?
In 2015, researchers at King’s College London reviewed 20 past studies on penis size, analysing different penis measurements (like girth, flaccid length, and erect length) for up to 15,500 men.
They found the average flaccid penis was about 3.6 inches long, while the average erect penis was about 5.2 inches long.
In a statement about the research, lead author Dr. David Veale said he believed the results “will help doctors reassure the large majority of men that the size of their penis is in the normal range.”
Is a micropenis a real thing?
“Micropenis” isn’t a made-up word – it’s a real medical term used to describe a penis that’s smaller than normal. Specifically, a micropenis measures less than 5.2 centimeters when soft, Spitz wrote in “The Penis Book.”
It occurs when the testicles of a male foetus don’t make enough testosterone while the penis is developing. (This testosterone deficiency, in turn, can be caused by genetic conditions, or it may have an unknown cause)
But, Spitz wrote, most people who do have micropenis have “fulfilling intimate sexual relationships” as adults.
Is it normal for my penis to have a slight curve?
Spitz said it’s “quite normal” for a penis to have a mild curve when erect.
There are some cases when the penis can curve more intensely, however. In Peyronie’s disease, scar tissue builds up inside the penis, eventually causing it to curve or bend.
“The angle can be mild or it can be so severe that the penis is actually curving back toward the person’s abdomen,” Spitz said. The cause of Peyronie’s isn’t fully understood, but it’s thought that it may be triggered by subtle, repetitive injuries during sex, he added. Some cases resolve on their own with treatment, but others may require medications, injections, or surgery.
Other people may be born with a curved penis because their corpora cavernosa aren’t symmetrically aligned.
“In many cases, this is mild and doesn’t require any treatment, but in severe cases, it would require surgical correction,” Spitz said.
Does penis size have anything to do with foot size or finger length?
Spitz said that some studies have observed a “very mild” link between penis length and height, shoe size, the size of the pointer finger, and the ratio between the pointer and ring finger sizes.
But just because these weak associations are seen in large groups of people, he said, doesn’t mean they hold true from individual to individual.
Can my penis break?
There’s no bone inside the penis that can break, but the cylinder-shaped corpora cavernosa can rupture.
“When the penis is erect, the [cylinders] are rigid because they’re filled with blood under high pressure,” Spitz said.”If you bend them suddenly and severely the pressure gets so intense that they rupture like a tire.”
He added that there’s usually an audible popping sound, then blood will start to rush from the corpora cavernosa into the soft tissue below the skin, making the penis look “like an eggplant.”
Unsurprisingly, an injury like this is an emergency that needs fast treatment.
“People are really embarrassed when it happens, but if they don’t come in and get it surgically fixed, it can heal in an abnormal way and then give you the bent penis later,” Spitz said. “But if you come in, usually it can be fixed very nicely and patients can usually get back to normal sex life after they’re healed up.”
Doesn’t erectile dysfunction only happen in older people?
Spitz explained that erectile dysfunction can affect people of any age, but in young, otherwise healthy people, it most often happens for psychological reasons.
Say, for example, a young person had a problem getting an erection for a one-off reason, like being drunk or just having a bad day. Then, the next time they try to have sex, they feel anxiety, worrying whether or not it will happen again. That anxiety prompts the body to release the hormone adrenaline, which decreases blood flow to the penis.
“Then it becomes this vicious cycle because the next time the guys goes, ‘I hope I don’t have trouble having an erection like I did the last two times,'” triggering further anxiety and adrenaline, Spitz said.
In older people, however, the most common cause of ED is deterioration of blood vessels, Spitz said. As age increases, blood vessels start to get stiffer and narrower don’t expand as much to allow for blood flow to the penis during times of arousal.
Is there anything I can do about premature ejaculation?
Premature ejaculation (PE) – ejaculating earlier than you or your partner wants when having sex – is actually more common than erectile dysfunction, Spitz wrote in “The Penis Book.” Different studies have estimated that it affects anywhere from 5% to 30% of men, according to the AUA. It can make sex frustrating and negatively affect relationships, the organisation adds.
The good news is there are are a number of ways people with penises can address the condition, including psychological therapy, topical numbing creams or sprays that decrease penis sensitivity, and antidepressants, which some doctors prescribe off-label to help with PE.
There are also exercises that can help you gain more control over PE if it affects you, according to the AUA. In the stop-start exercise, a partner stimulates your penis until just before you ejaculate, then stops until your urge to orgasm dissipates, then starts again. In the squeeze method, a partner firmly squeezes the penis when you are close to ejaculation.
The AUA recommends that you see a doctor for help whenever PE interferes with sexual pleasure.
Will my penis show symptoms if I have an STD?
Most people who get infected with trichomoniasis and chlamydia don’t have symptoms, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people with genital herpes don’t know they have it, because the symptoms may be mild or mistaken for another skin condition.
The only way to know for sure whether you’re STD-free is to get tested.
“You have to look,” Dr. Charlotte Gaydos, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, previously told INSIDER. “If you don’t look, you don’t know.”
The CDC’s website has a quiz to help you determine exactly which STD tests you should get and a tool to search for search for STD testing near you.
- Read more:
- A relationship therapist explains why the cliché that men are always ‘in the mood’ for sex is wrong
- 10 science-backed ways to help with erectile dysfunction
- Marijuana use could potentially lower a person’s sperm count, making it more difficult to have children
- A wounded soldier has received the world’s first full penis and scrotum transplant
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