Andrew Siegel MD 10/8/16
Image above: Roman copy of Apollo Delphinios by Demetrius Miletus at the end of the second century (Attribution: Joanbanjo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)
Not a day goes by in my urology practice when I fail to hear the following complaint from a patient: “Doc, my penis is shrinking.” The truth of the matter is that the penis can shrivel from a variety of circumstances, but most of the time it is a mere illusion—a sleight of penis, if you will. Weight gain and obesity cause a generous pubic fat pad, the male equivalent of the female mons pubis, which will make the penis appear shorter and retrusive. However, penile length is usually intact, with the penis merely hiding behind the fat pad, the “turtle effect.” Lose the fat and presto…the penis reappears. Having a plus-sized figure is not such a good thing when it comes to size matters, as well as many other matters.
Factoid: It is estimated that with every 35 lbs. of weight gain, there is one-inch loss in apparent penile length.
The 9-letter word every man despises: S-H-R-I-N-K-A-G-E, immortalized by Jason Alexander playing the character George in the Seinfeld series. Jerry’s girlfriend Rachel catches a glimpse of naked George after he has stepped out of a swimming pool. Suffice it to say that George’s penis was in a “non-optimized” state. George tries to explain: “Well I just got back from swimming in the pool and the water was cold.” Jerry makes the diagnosis: “Oh, you mean shrinkage” and George confirms: “Yes, significant shrinkage.”
Penis size has not escaped our “bigger is better” American mentality where large cars, homes, breasts, buttocks and mega-logos on shirts are desirable and sought-after assets. The pervasive pornography industry–where many male stars are “hung like horses”– has given the average guy a bit of an inferiority complex.
Factoid: The reality of the situation is that the average male has an average-sized penis, but in our competitive society, although average is the norm, average curiously has gotten a bad rap.
Adages concerning penile size and function are common, e.g., “It’s not the size of the ship, but the motion of the ocean.” Or even better, as seen on a poster in a gateway while boarding an airplane: “Size should never outrank service.” The messages conveyed by these statements have significant merit, but nonetheless, to many men and women, size plays at least some role and many men have concerns about their size. Whereas men with tiny penises may be less capable of sexually pleasing a woman, men who have huge penises can end up intimidating women and provoking pain and discomfort.
Leonardo Da Vinci had an interesting take on perspectives: “Woman’s desire is the opposite of that of man. She wishes the size of the man’s member to be as large as possible, while the man desires the opposite for the woman’s genital parts.”
As a urologist who examines many patients a day, I can attest to the fact that penises come in all shapes and sizes and that flaccid length does not necessarily predict erect length and can vary depending upon many factors. There are showers and there are growers. Showers have a large flaccid length without significant expansion upon achieving an erection, as opposed to growers who have a relatively compact flaccid penis that expands significantly with erection.
With all biological parameters—including penis size—there is a bell curve with a wide range of variance, with most clustered in the middle and outliers at either end. Some men are phallically-endowed, some phallically-challenged, with most somewhere in the middle of the road. In a study of 3500 penises published by Alfred Kinsey, average flaccid length was 8.8 centimeters (3.5 inches). Average erect length ranged between 12.9-15 centimeters (5-6 inches). Average circumference of the erect penis was 12.3 centimeters (4.75 inches). As with so many physical traits, penis size is largely determined by genetic and hereditary factors. Blame it on your father (and mother).
Factoid: Hung like a horse—forget about it! The blue whale has the mightiest genitals of any animal in the animal kingdom: penis length is 8-10 feet; penis girth is 12-14 inches; ejaculate volume is 4-5 gallons; and testicles are 100-150 pounds. Hung like a whale!
Factoid: “Supersize Me.” In order to make their genitals look larger, the Mambas of New Hebrides wrap their penises in many yards of cloth, making them appear massive in length. The Caramoja tribe of Northern Uganda tie weights on the end of their penises in efforts to elongate them.
Penile size in an individual can be quite variable, based upon penile blood flow. The more blood flow, the more tumescence (swelling); the less blood flow, the less tumescence. “Shrinkage” is a real phenomenon provoked by exposure to cold (weather or water), the state of being anxious or nervous, and participation in sports. The mechanism in all cases involves blood circulation.
Cold exposure causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of arterial flow) to the body’s peripheral anatomy to help maintain blood flow and temperature to the vital core. This principle is used when placing ice on an injury, as the vasoconstriction will reduce swelling and inflammation. Similarly, exposure to heat causes vasodilation (expansion of arterial flow), the reason why some penile fullness can occur in a warm shower.
Nervous states and anxiety cause the release of the stress hormone adrenaline, which functions as a vasoconstrictor, resulting in numerous effects, including a flaccid penis. In fact, when the rare patient presents to the emergency room with an erection that will not quit, urologists often must inject an adrenaline-like medication into the penis to bring the erection down.
Hitting it hard in the gym or with any athletic pursuit demands a tremendous increase in blood flow to the parts of the body involved with the effort. There is a “steal” of blood flow away from organs and tissues not involved with the athletics with “shunting” of that blood flow to the organs and tissues with the highest oxygen and nutritional demands, namely the muscles. The penis is one of those organs from which blood is “stolen”—essentially “stealing from Peter to pay Paul” (pun intended!)—rendering the penis into a sad, deflated state. Additionally, the adrenaline release that typically accompanies exercise further shrinks the penis.
Cycling and other saddle sports—including motorcycle, moped, and horseback riding—put intense, prolonged pressure on the perineum (area between scrotum and anus), which is the anatomical location of the penile blood and nerve supply as well as pelvic floor muscles that help support erections and maintain rigidity. Between the compromise to the penile blood flow and the nerve supply, the direct pressure effect on the pelvic floor muscles, and the steal, there is a perfect storm for a limp, shriveled and exhausted penis. More importantly is the potential erectile dysfunction that may occur from too much time in the saddle.
Like any other body part, the penis needs to be used on a regular basis—the way nature intended—in order to maintain its health. In the absence of regular sexual activity, disuse atrophy (wasting away with a decline in anatomy and function) of the penile erectile tissues can occur, resulting in a “de-conditioned,” smaller and often temperamental penis.
Factoid: If you go for too long without an erection, smooth muscle, elastin and other tissues within the penis may be negatively affected, resulting in a loss of penile length and girth and negatively affecting ability to achieve an erection.
Factoid: Scientific studies have found that sexual intercourse on a regular basis protects against ED and that the risk of ED is inversely related to the frequency of intercourse. Men reporting intercourse less than once weekly had a two-fold higher incidence of ED as compared to men reporting intercourse once weekly.
Radical prostatectomy as a treatment for prostate cancer can cause penile shrinkage. This occurs because of the loss in urethral length necessitated by the surgical removal of the prostate, which is compounded by the disuse atrophy and scarring that can occur from the erectile dysfunction associated with the surgical procedure. For this reason, getting back in the saddle as soon as possible after surgery will help “rehabilitate” the penis by preventing disuse atrophy.
Peyronie’s Disease can cause penile shrinkage on the basis of scarring of the erectile tissues that prevents them from expanding properly. For more on this, see my blog on the topic:
Medications that reduce testosterone levels are often used as a form of treatment for prostate cancer. The resultant low testosterone level can result in penile atrophy and shrinkage. Having a low testosterone level from other causes will also contribute to a reduction in penile size.
Are There Herbs, Vitamins or Pills That Can Increase Penile Size?
Do not waste your resources on the vast number of heavily advertised products that will supposedly increase penile size but have no merit whatsoever. Realistically, the only medications capable of increasing penile size are the oral medications that are FDA approved for ED. Daily Cialis will increase penile blood flow and by so doing will increase flaccid penile dimensions over what they would normally be; the erect penis may be larger as well because of augmented blood flow. Additionally, for many men this will restore the capability of being sexually active whereas previously they were unable to obtain a penetrable erection, thus allowing them to “use it instead of losing it” and maintain healthy penile anatomy and function.
Is Penile Enlargement Feasible Through Mechanical Means?
It is possible to increase penile size using tissue expansion techniques. The vacuum suction device uses either a manual or battery-powered source to create a vacuum in a cylinder into which the penis is placed. The negative pressure pulls blood into the penis, expanding penile length and girth. A constriction ring is placed around the base of the penis to maintain the erection. The vacuum is used to manage ED as well as a means of penile rehabilitation and is also used prior to penile implant surgery to increase the dimensions of the penis and allow a slightly larger device to be implanted than could be used otherwise. It can also be helpful under circumstances of penile shrinkage.
Vacuum Suction Device
The Penimaster Pro is a penile traction system that is approved in the European Union and Canada for urological conditions that lead to shortening and curvature of the penis. In the USA it is under investigation by the FDA. It is a means of using mechanical stress to cause penile tissue expansion and enlargement.
What’s The Deal With Penile Enlargement Surgery?
Some men who would like to have a larger penis may consider surgery. In my opinion, penile enlargement surgery, aka, “augmentation phalloplasty,” is highly risky and not ready for prime time. Certain procedures are “sleight of penis” procedures including cutting the suspensory ligaments, disconnecting and moving the attachment of the scrotum to the penile base, and liposuction of the pubic fat pad. These procedures unveil some of the “hidden” penis, but do nothing to enhance overall length. Other procedures attempt to “bulk” the penis by injections of fat, silicone, bulking agents, tissue grafts and other implantable materials. The untoward effects of enlargement surgery can include an unsightly, lumpy, discolored, painful and perhaps poorly functioning penis. Realistically, in the quest for a larger member, the best we can hope for is to accept our genetic endowment, remain physically fit, and keep our pelvic floor muscles well conditioned.
What’s Up With Penile Transplants?
The world’s first penis transplant was performed at Guangzhou General Hospital in China when microsurgery was used to transplant a donor penis to a recipient whose penis was damaged beyond repair in an accident. Subsequently, there have been several transplants done for penile trauma. Hmmm, now here is a concept for penile enlargement!
What To Do To Avoid Shrinkage issues?
- Accept that cold, stress and athletics will cause temporary shrinkage
- Be aware that cycling and other saddle sports can cause shrinkage as well as erectile dysfunction: wear comfortable and protective shorts; get measured for a saddle with an appropriate fit; frequently rise up out of the saddle, taking the pressure off the perineum
- Eat a healthy diet and stay physically active to maintain a lean physique
- Use it or lose it: stay sexually active
- Do pelvic floor exercises (a.k.a. Man Kegels): visit http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com
- “Rehab” the penis to avoid disuse atrophy after radical prostatectomy: oral ED meds, pelvic floor muscle training, vibrational stimulation, vacuum suction device, penile injection therapy; consider “pre-hab” before the surgery
- Seek urological care for Peyronie’s disease
Wishing you the best of health,
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Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com
Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health
E-book available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback available via websites. Author page on Amazon:
Trailer for The Kegel Fix:
Co-creator of the comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered Private Gym/PelvicRx, a male pelvic floor muscle training program built upon the foundational work of renowned Dr. Arnold Kegel. The program empowers men to increase their pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, and endurance. Combining the proven effectiveness of Kegel exercises with the use of resistance weights, this program helps to improve sexual function and to prevent urinary incontinence: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.
In the works is the female PelvicRx DVD pelvic floor muscle training for women.
Pelvic Rx, Vacuum Suction Devices and many other quality products can be obtained at http://www.UrologyHealthStore.com. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount.
Tags: adrenaline, Andrew Siegel MD, anxiety, athletics, cold, de-conditioned penis, disuse atrophy, erectile dysfunction, erection, low testosterone, male pelvic fitness, obesity, penile blood flow, penis, penis size, Peyronie's disease, prostate cancer, radical prostatectomy, shrinkage, shrinking penis, testosterone, urology, vasoconstriction, vasodilation