They say that a dog is man’s best friend…but as every bloke knows, that’s not strictly true…it’s their penis. The focus of much attention throughout life and undoubtedly a source of endless pleasure, he’s your intimate little buddy who’ll stick with you through thick and thin.
But your penis can also be the source of great concern and anxiety – from how he looks to how he functions. Below you’ll find five common symptoms that can afflict the little guy deciphered and explained; which should help you to better understand his complex character. From erections that won’t subside to injuries that can leave him permanently paralysed, as well as the answer to that age-old question as to whether he truly measures up, the following ‘symptom checker’ should help to keep your relationship with your penis on track.
Symptom: You’ve developed a significant bend in your erect penis…
Cause: Penises come in all shapes and sizes; and it’s quite normal to have some degree of curvature to the left, right, up or down from birth. However, if the little fella develops a prominent bend during adulthood, you may well be suffering from a condition known as Peyronie’s disease.
Peyronie’s is characterised by a build up of scar tissue on the sheet of tissue (called the tunica albuginea) which encapsulates the erectile chambers. Because this scar tissue (known as a plaque) is unable to stretch with the rest of the tunica albuginea during an erection, the penis bends at the point of the plaque build up.
The degree of curvature can be so severe that it prevents intercourse; and is often (but not always) accompanied by painful erections, as well as a narrowing of the penile shaft at the point of the problem.
The cause of Peyronie’s disease is subject to fierce debate. A percentage of cases are believed to be the result of minor penile trauma (which may be so slight as to have gone unnoticed at the time). However, incidences do rise in men in their 50’s and 60’s, are sometimes accompanied by other connective tissue disorders and may even have a genetic link.
Treatment: Due to the fact that the cause of many cases of Peyronie’s remains a mystery, medical treatment options are often hit and miss. Doctors often recommend oral vitamin E supplementation as a first line treatment option because of the vitamin’s ability to reduce the formation of scar tissue throughout the body. In more severe cases medications that help to breakdown collagen (a protein which is believed to play a key role in the development of Peyronie’s) are injected directly into the affected tissues – but again with varying levels of success. Corrective surgery to reduce the severity of penile curvature is usually considered a last resort, as the various surgical procedures available either tend to cause a degree of penile shortening or have a relatively high risk of causing further erectile impairment. A recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that penile traction might offer a viable non-surgical alternative for men who’ve failed to respond to other forms of treatment.
Symptom: Whilst having sex you hear a nauseating cracking sound, followed by extreme pain, your erection deflates quicker than a blown out tyre and your little fella promptly turns black and blue…
Cause: This nightmare scenario is caused by sudden trauma to the penis which results in a ‘penile fracture’. Whilst your penis contains the same number of bones as the average mollusc (none), the cracking sound is a result of the tunica albuginea (the sheath of tissue covering the erectile chambers mentioned above) splitting or tearing under extreme force.
Violently bending a fully erect penis is the common culprit – an easy mistake to make during the throws of passion (particularly if she’s on top). But if the worst does happen and you consider your other half to be culpable, don’t expect any monetary compensation – a man who tried to sue his (not surprisingly ex) girlfriend for that very thing had his lawsuit for reckless endangerment dismissed.
Treatment: Prompt surgical intervention to repair the damaged tunica is usually a necessity. Left untreated experts warn that there’s a 10 – 50 percent chance that you’ll sustain irreparable damage that could result in permanent distortion to the penile shaft, pain during sex and worst of all, permanent loss of erectile function.
In all honesty though, you’re not likely to need much encouragement to rush yourself to A & E if you’re ever unlucky enough to experience the mind numbing agony, swelling and bruising that usually accompanies a penile fracture.
Symptom: Mr Happy has outstayed his welcome…
Cause: Although a perpetual hard-on might sound like fun (behind closed curtains at least), take heed, because an erection that lasts more than four hours requires urgent medical attention to prevent permanent penile damage.
Medically referred to as Priapism, involuntary erections that refuse to subside can be caused by a host of factors. In healthy men, illicit drugs including cocaine and marijuana and the abuse of anti-impotence medications for recreational purposes are common culprits. The condition is also a known side effect of various blood disorders including sickle cell anaemia and leukaemia; and can even be a symptom of Malaria…which is something you never see in those old WWII movies. But if it happens to you, don’t assume it’s the side effect of something more sinister…an unrelenting boner can occur for no explicable reason in healthy blokes too.
But do swallow your pride, get a hat to hide the offending anatomical protrusion and leg it down to the emergency room as quickly as you can.
Treatment: Unfortunately, treatment options for Priapism all involve sharp metal objects coming into hazardous proximity to your little buddy. But these are a necessity to restore normal blood flow in order to prevent permanent nerve and tissue damage.
First line options involve injections of a type of drugs known as alpha-agonists straight into the penile shaft. These help the cavernous artery that feeds the penis with blood to contract, which in turn relaxes the blood vessels that allow blood to escape. Alternatively, (this is where you might want to cross your legs) a technique called Corporal irrigation involves the insertion of a needle into the little soldier’s helmet, through which saline solution is pumped in to flush out the trapped blood. If all else fails, a small device known as a ‘shunt’ which is used to redirect blood flow is surgically implanted into the penis.
Of course, all the above is done under either local or general anaesthetic…though naturally you may want to look the other way.
Symptom: Your erections seem to have lost their zest for life…
Cause: Lacklustre erections can be a symptom of a multitude of underlying problems, both emotional and physical.
Anything that affects your mental well-being, from everyday stress to clinically diagnosed depression can leave your penis a little deflated. To compound matters, many of the drugs prescribed to treat such disorders list male sexual dysfunction as one of their most common side effects. What’s more, self medicating with recreational and illicit drugs from alcohol, through to marijuana and cocaine can all have a similar negative effect on your erection quality.
As far as physical causes are concerned, hormonal imbalances and restricted circulation to the penis are the two most likely culprits – but both can again be caused by a host of underlying physical causes.
Hormone imbalances such as lowered testosterone can result from many things including lack of sleep, being overweight, age related decline or even damage to the pituitary gland caused by a minor knock to the head (the one above your neck).
Because of its relatively small size, the cavernous artery which supplies the penis with blood is also often the first victim of Atherosclerosis – the process whereby arteries become gradually clogged with fatty deposits. Weakened erections, particularly in men over 40, can therefore be the first sign of cardiovascular disease, which obviously warrants further investigation by your doctor.
Treatment: Again treatment depends on the underlying root problem. The first step your doctor is likely to take is to give you a full physical to check your cardiovascular health and screen for hormonal imbalances. If you’re on one of the many anti-depressant or high blood pressure medications that list weak erections as a side effect, these can be substituted or doses changed for something more erection friendly. Many psychotherapists claim that counselling can be effective where there’s an underlying psychological cause – particularly for those suffering from ‘performance anxiety’. But before you go down the psychotherapy root, it’s of course important to rule out physical causes – there’s little benefit in feeling great from psychotherapy if you’re about to die from a heart attack.
The most proactive thing you can do as an individual to improve the quality of your erections is to improve the quality of your lifestyle. The improvements to both your emotional and cardiovascular health from regular exercise can have a massive erection boosting effect. Similarly, if you smoke…stop. A recent study into the relationship between ED and cigarettes suggests that up to 1 in 5 cases can be linked directly to the habit. Limiting the amount of saturated fats in your diet is another no brainer for keeping the arteries to the penis clear of fatty deposits, whilst vitamin C supplementation helps to maintain the integrity of arterial walls. Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, was a firm believer in the powers of vitamin C to keep the arteries free from disease – suggesting that 500-1000mg taken twice a day could have strong protective effects.
Always remember…anything that’s good for the arteries is also good for the penis too.
Symptom: Your little man is…erm…too little…
Cause: Unless your erect penis length measures less than 7cm (2.75 inches) you won’t be classified in the medical sense at least, as having an abnormally small penis. The 0.6 percent of men who do fall into this category are termed to suffer from a condition called ‘micropenis’ which is believed to be caused by a hormonal imbalance in the womb during the later stages of foetal development.
According to experts, those who fall within the ‘average’ size range but who nevertheless experience extreme anxiety or low self-esteem regarding their penile size could well be suffering from a recognised psychological disorder called penile dysmorphophobia (also known by the slightly less verbose name of ‘small penis syndrome’). As with other body dysmorphic disorders, the preoccupation of the perceived physical abnormality can be so severe that it impinges on every aspect of life. Penile dysmorphophobia is considered a chronic condition that often doesn’t improve without psychotherapy.
But what is average? Well according to a paper published in the medical journal BJU International in 2007, it’s an erect penis length of between 5.5 and 6.3 inches (14 – 16 cm) and an erect girth of between 4.7 and 5.1 inches (12 – 13 cm). This study based its conclusions on the synthesis of 12 previous studies into penis size – so the findings probably provide a pretty accurate reflection.
If you’re of average size and still not entirely happy though, don’t be concerned…you’re not necessarily suffering from penile dysmorphophobia. The same study also concluded that around 45 percent of men suffer a degree of concern about their penis size. The researchers pointed out that men have a habit of underestimating their own penile dimensions, whilst overestimating what’s average. Ironically, the study also found that 85 percent of women were in fact satisfied with the size of their partner’s penis.
Treatment: In decades gone, those unfortunate to be diagnosed with Micropenis in childhood were often ‘treated’ through gender reassignment surgery. These days fortunately, diagnosis (again, usually made in childhood) tends to be followed by growth hormone therapy.
Sufferers of severe penile dysmorphophobia usually need psychotherapy to improve the quality of their lives; and such therapy is also often recommended as a first line treatment option for men who are considering surgical enlargement procedures.
Of course, as mentioned above, a general dissatisfaction with the size of your penis is far from abnormal (it’s a dissatisfaction shared by almost half of all men) – and as such doesn’t mean you need to be treated for penile dysmorphophobia. What’s more, particularly in these modern times when men are exposed to the same media and social pressures as women to have the perfect physique, this male preoccupation with penis size seems to be on the up (pun sort of intended).
Numerous surgical and non-surgical ways of beefing up your member have been touted over the years – although most fail to stand up to scrutiny.
Penis lengthening surgery has been shown to be nominally effective, with studies suggesting that gains of around an inch in flaccid length and half an inch in erect length can be expected from a successful procedure. But even with the constant refinement of such ‘phalloplasty’ techniques over the past few years, most professional medical bodies still consider the rewards not to warrant the risks.