Penis health: Conditions, safety, lifestyle, and care

What to know about penis health

Medically reviewed by Kevin Martinez, M.D. — Written by Jenna Fletcher on April 2, 2020

This article is a repost which originally appeared on MEDICAL NEWS TODAY

Edited for content

A healthy penis should be free of lesions, warts, and abnormal discharge. In general, the penis should be roughly the same color as the surrounding skin, though it may be a shade darker or lighter.

Also, a person should not experience any pain in their penis when urinating or engaging in sexual activity.

A sudden change in the appearance, sensation, or function of the penis may signal an underlying issue that requires medical attention.

This article describes certain lifestyle factors and health conditions that can affect penis health. It also outlines some possible symptoms of poor penis health and provides tips on penis care.

Lifestyle factors that affect penis health

Lifestyle factors that can affect penis health include sexual relationships, weight management, and alcohol use.

The sections below outline some common lifestyle factors that can affect penis health.

Sexual relationships

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can negatively affect penis health. Some of the most common STIs include:

  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • herpes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people practice safe sex in order to reduce their risk of contracting an STI. This involves using barrier methods during sexual activity and getting vaccinated against hepatitis B and HPV.

The following can also help reduce the risk of spreading and contracting STIs:

  • limiting the number of sexual partners
  • maintaining a monogamous sexual relationship
  • abstaining from sexual activity

Often, people who contract an STI do not experience any symptoms. This is why it is important for people who are sexually active to attend regular sexual health screenings.

Weight management

Obesity can negatively affect many aspects of a person’s health, including penis function.

People with obesity may be more likely to experience erectile dysfunction, or impotence. This occurs when a person is unable to develop or maintain an erection during sexual activity.

According to the Obesity Action Coalition, obesity can contribute to erectile dysfunction by:

  • decreasing testosterone levels
  • causing inflammation throughout the body
  • damaging the blood vessels, including those that supply blood to the penis

However, one 2018 study suggests that the relationship between obesity and sexual health is not completely clear. Although obesity may contribute to erectile dysfunction, other factors may also give rise to poor sexual health. These include:

  • anxiety
  • stress
  • self-esteem issues

Diet

Eating a healthful, balanced diet can help prevent obesity and related sexual health problems.

A 2017 animal study investigated the potential link between diet, obesity, and erectile function. In this study, one group of rats consumed a calorie-rich diet, while a second group consumed a standard diet.

The rats that consumed the calorie-rich diet were more likely to develop obesity, and they also showed significantly poorer erectile function.

The types of food a person eats could also affect their penis health. For example, one 2016 study found that a diet rich in flavonoids was associated with a reduced risk of erectile dysfunction in men below the age of 70.

Flavonoids are chemicals that occur naturally in a range of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Some examples of flavonoid-rich foods include:

  • root vegetables
  • legumes
  • berries
  • grapes
  • citrus fruits
  • teas
  • chocolate

Exercise

Exercise is important in helping a person maintain a moderate weight. This means that it also helps reduce the risk of obesity-related sexual health concerns.

Exercise may also benefit sexual health more directly. For example, one 2015 study investigated whether or not regular walking exercise could help improve erectile dysfunction in men who had recently had a heart attack.

Those who took part in the regular walking program reported a 71% decrease in erectile dysfunction symptoms. Those who did not take part in the program reported a 9% increase in erectile dysfunction symptoms.

The researchers conclude that regular exercise may help reduce symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

A 2011 meta-analysis investigated the effects of aerobic exercise on erectile dysfunction. The researchers analyzed five studies involving a total of 385 participants.

All the studies showed improvements in erectile dysfunction following aerobic activity. The researchers conclude that men with erectile dysfunction may benefit from aerobic training, though further studies are necessary to confirm this.

Alcohol and tobacco use

Drinking a lot of alcohol can negatively impact many aspects of a person’s health.

According to the CDC, excessive drinking can interfere with male hormone production, potentially contributing to impotence and infertility.

Alcohol also increases the likelihood that a person will engage in risky sexual behavior. Such behavior puts a person at increased risk of contracting or transmitting an STI.

Tobacco smoking can also have a negative effect on penis health. According to the Truth Initiative, smoking may play a role in the following sexual health issues:

  • erectile dysfunction
  • infertility
  • decreased libido

Health conditions that may affect penis health

There are several health conditions that can directly affect penis health. Some of the more common ones include:

  • STIs, such as chlamydia, herpes, or genital warts
  • phimosis, which occurs when the foreskin cannot extend over the head of the penis
  • balanitis, which is inflammation of the head or foreskin of the penis

Other conditions not directly related to the penis can also affect its health. Many of these conditions may cause erectile dysfunction or issues with fertility. These include:

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • stress
  • certain heart conditions

When to see a doctor

Anyone who is sexually active should check for symptoms of STIs regularly. They should look for:

  • rashes, sores, or blisters on the penis
  • burning or itching sensations in the penis
  • abnormal discharge from the penis
  • a foul odor coming from the penis or groin area
  • pelvic pain
  • pain when urinating or passing stools

Anyone who thinks that they may have an STI should visit their doctor for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Importantly, many people who contract an STI will not experience any symptoms. Regular sexual health screenings will help detect STIs that a person may not have noticed otherwise.

Anyone who thinks that they may have erectile dysfunction should also see their doctor, who will work to diagnose the cause.

How to care for the penis

A person should clean their penis at least once per day using a mild soap. Using abrasive or heavily scented soaps could irritate the skin of the penis.

A person should wash all parts of the penis, including:

  • the pubic hair
  • the scrotum
  • the area between the legs and scrotum
  • the penis shaft
  • the area underneath the foreskin, if uncircumcised

Tips for a healthy penis

The tips below can help a person keep their penis healthy:

  • using a barrier method during sex
  • limiting the number of sexual partners they have
  • undergoing a sexual health screening at least once per year if in a monogamous relationship
  • undergoing a sexual health screening as often as every 3–6 months if having sex with multiple partners
  • keeping the penis and genital area clean
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • avoiding the use of tobacco products
  • exercising regularly
  • eating a healthful, balanced diet

Summary

A person can take several steps to maintain the health of their penis. This includes exercising regularly and eating a healthful diet. A person may also wish to avoid having unprotected sex, drinking a lot of alcohol, and using tobacco products.

To maintain a healthy penis, a person should thoroughly wash the penis at least once per day. Those who are sexually active should also go for sexual health screenings at least once per year and perform regular self-checks at home.

If a person has any concerns about their penis, they should talk to a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will work to diagnose the cause of the issue and provide appropriate treatments.

 

Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

Types of penises: Shape, size, circumcision, and more

What to know about types of penises

Medically reviewed by Joseph Brito III, MD — Written by Mathieu Rees on November 23, 2020

This article is a repost which originally appeared on MEDICAL NEWS TODAY

Edited for content

The penis is a male organ with functions that include reproduction and urination. As with any body part, no two people have the same penis.

The penis has two main features. The body, or shaft, connects the penis to the abdomen. At the opposite end of the shaft is the glans, or head.

This article lists some common types of penises, categorized primarily by measurement, and provides some related information.

Length

Penises come in different lengths when flaccid or erect.

Estimates about average penis length can vary. For example, one 2014 study looked at the penis size of United States males. It found that the average erect length was around 5.6 inches.

However, another article suggests there are issues with many penis length studies, including the fact that participants self-report measurements.

These studies use self-reported data and are therefore subject to bias, which likely fuels the widespread belief that the average penis size is closer to 6 inches. In reality, the average is likely to be lower

Girth

Penises also have different girths or circumferences.

A 2014 study into the penis size of U.S. males found that the average erect girth was around 4.8 inches.

However, as with penis length, a person should note that many penis girth studies use self-reported measurements, which are known to be fairly unreliable.

Curvature

Some penises are completely straight when erect. However, many have a bend or curvature. There are three main types of curved penis. These include penises that:

  • curve upwards from its base
  • curve downwards from its base
  • curve to the left or right

Additionally, some people may have multiple kinds of curvature. For instance, some penises may curve to the left and upwards.

Penile curvatures are common and typically benign. They are rarely painful and do not usually make penetrative sex more difficult.

However, abnormal penile curvature can sometimes be a symptom of Peyronie’s disease. One review lists the following as possible symptoms:

  • a thickened area, or plaque, in the penile shaft
  • curvature of the penis during erection
  • pain in the penis
  • erectile dysfunction

Scientists are not sure what causes Peyronie’s disease.

One common explanation is that the condition results from mild, recurring trauma to the penis. This can occur during intercourse or masturbation.

Peyronie’s disease can also be due to a rupture in the penis, known as a penile fracture. Genetic factors may also contribute to the development of this condition.

Anybody who suspects they may have Peyronie’s disease should seek medical advice. Sometimes, people with the condition who experience no other issues, such as pain, could still use their penis for sexual activity without needing medical treatment.

In some cases, doctors may recommend surgery to remove the plaque or reduce the curvature in the penis.

The base to head ratio

For some people, the circumference of the base of their penile shaft is the same as the circumference of their penile head.

For others, this ratio is different. Some may have a penile head with more girth than the base of their shaft, or vice versa.

Circumcised and uncircumcised

A person with a penis is born with a retractable layer of skin that covers the penile head, commonly referred to as the foreskin.

Many people around the world have their foreskin surgically removed, in a process known as male circumcision.

A trained person may carry out male circumcision on children and adults, often for cultural or religious reasons. Doctors can also perform them in medical treatments.

Circumcised penises do not have a foreskin, which means that the glans is always visible. Uncircumcised penises have a foreskin, which often covers the glans, especially when the penis is flaccid.

Some infants can be born without a foreskin, which is a condition called hypospadias. Here, the opening of the penis is not found at the tip. Surgery is usually required to correct this issue.

Uncircumcised men can also develop phimosis, where the foreskin cannot retract over the hood of the glans. This can lead to irritation and infection. People with the condition generally require medical circumcision.

Because circumcision is a surgical process, it can sometimes lead to health issues, including:

  • infection
  • necrosis of the penile head
  • cut to the penile head or urethra
  • penile loss

However, people should note that this procedure is very common. Infections following circumcision, one of the most common possible complications, affect just 0.5% of people.

Summary

Many internet sources misinform and perpetuate myths about penises. In reality, they are highly varied, just like other body parts.

Anyone who has concerns about their penis can seek medical advice from a trained professional.

Penis Health: 38 Things to Know About Maintenance, Safety, and More

Penis Health: 38 Things to Know About Maintenance, Safety, and More

Everything You Need to Know About Penis Health

Medically reviewed by Stacy Sampson, DO on March 26, 2019 — Written by Sian Ferguson

This article is a repost which originally appeared on HealthLine

Edited for content

What this means

When most people think about penis health, they think about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and erectile dysfunction (ED).

While these conditions can certainly affect the health of your penis, penile health is about so much more than that.

There are many different things that can affect the health of your penis, including your hygiene practices, lifestyle changes, and any underlying health conditions.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your penis in tip-top shape.

What affects penis health?

Many different things can affect penis health. And by “penis health,” we mean:

  • your ability to urinate comfortably
  • your ability to get or maintain an erection
  • your fertility

Penis health also includes avoiding certain health conditions, such as penile cancer and STIs.

The following factors can affect the health of your penis:

Hormone levels

ED can be caused by hormone imbalances, such as a low testosterone level. Low testosterone levels can be caused by a number of different factors, which we’ll discuss in this article.

Age

As you age, you’re more likely to experience sexual dysfunctions like ED. This is partly because your testosterone level will naturally decline over time.

Health conditions

High blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and certain neurological conditions can cause ED. Psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression can also exacerbate ED.

Sex

If you want to have sex without a condom, ensure that both you and your partners are tested regularly for STIs, or remain in a monogamous relationship with someone free of STIs.

Otherwise, correctly using a condom every time you have sex is the only way to reduce your risk.

Rough sex can also harm your penis. For example, pulling back the foreskin abruptly can tear it. Accidentally bending your erect penis can cause a traumatic penis fracture.

Medication

Some forms of medication can increase your chances of ED. Speak to a doctor or other healthcare provider if you think your medication is causing ED or other sexual dysfunction.

Hygiene

Practicing good hygiene is essential for your health. Wash your penis and groin area often to keep it clean.

Poor hygiene can cause a build-up of smegma, an oily, malodorous, and irritating substance that is known to occur below the foreskin.

If smegma builds up, it can cause inflammation to the adjacent skin. This can be uncomfortable and can be a cause [of] balanitis, a condition where the head of the penis becomes red and inflamed.

Even with a circumcised penis, less than ideal hygiene can lead to penile irritation and inflammation, including balanitis.

General tips

Penis health needs a holistic approach. In other words, taking care of all aspects of your general health is important for the health of your penis. This is especially important since a range of different health conditions can affect your fertility and penile health.

Stay hydrated

Hydration is important for your overall health, as well as the health of your penis. There might be a link between dehydration and ED, so try to get about two liters of water a day.

Eat a balanced diet

A balanced diet is key in helping you reduce your chances of developing diabetes and heart disease, both of which can cause ED.

One 2016 study conducted among 25,096 subjects looked at the relationship between ED and flavonoids, which are mostly found in vegetables and fruit.

Researchers found that the subjects who regularly consumed flavonoids were less likely to develop ED.

Certain foods may also boost your testosterone levels and improve your fertility. This includes:

  • spinach
  • spicy foods with capsaicin
  • avocado

Get regular exercise

Moderate physical activity can reduce your chances of ED.

One 2015 study looked at people with ED and a recent myocardial infarction, commonly referred to as a heart attack. It found that a home-based walking program can reduce ED.

Try exercising at least a few times a week — even a brisk walk every so often can improve your penile health.

Practice pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises are often associated with vaginal health, but they can be helpful for everyone.

These exercises can improve your ability to get and maintain an erection, as well as prevent dribble after urination.

A small 2005 study on 55 people with ED found that pelvic exercises helped 40 percent of participants regain normal erectile function.

An additional 35.5 percent reported that, although they hadn’t completely regained normal function, their overall erectile function did improve.

You can do basic Kegel exercises by squeezing the muscles you use to urinate. Squeeze for five seconds, relax, and repeat for 10 rounds. Eventually, work your way up to 20 reps. Do this two or three times per day.

Maintain a healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your chances of diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease, all of which affect your penile health.

Practice stress management

Practicing stress management is great for your overall health and the health of your penis.

Stress and anxiety can affect your sexual performance and fertility. Stress also increases your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, which can lead to ED.

Stress management techniques include:

  • deep breathing
  • spending time with loved ones
  • journaling
  • meditation

Practice sleep hygiene

Sleep is important for your vascular health, which affects your ability to become erect.

There seems to be a link between obstructive sleep apnea and ED, possibly because sleep deprivation can lead to low testosterone and other hormonal imbalances.

Avoid tobacco

Smoking cigarettes is strongly associated with ED.

A 2013 study showed that this possibly is because smoking disrupts your heart’s autonomic function, which in turn leads to ED.

Smoking can also decrease your fertility.

Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all

As with tobacco, excessive drinking can cause a number of health problems, which can in turn affect your penis health.

How to wash your penis

You can wash your pubic area using warm water and unscented, mild soap. Don’t use harsh soaps or scrub the area too hard, as the sensitive skin in the area can be irritated.

Make sure you:

  1. Wash your pubic mound and the skin around the base of the penis, as well as the skin between your thighs and your pubic mound. Sweat can collect here.
  2. Wash the shaft of your penis.
  3. If you have a foreskin, gently pull it back and wash it. This helps to prevent smegma build-up, which can lead to conditions like balanitis.
  4. Wash your scrotum and the skin around it.
  5. Wash your perineum (the piece of skin between your scrotum and anus).
  6. Wash near your anus and between your butt cheeks.

It’s best to wash your penis every time you bathe.

As you wash yourself, examine the skin around your groin for STI symptoms. This includes:

  • unusual discharge
  • rashes
  • blisters
  • warts

How to groom your pubic hair

Some people like grooming their pubic hair, while others don’t. Whether you groom your pubic hair or not is your decision.

If you’d like to remove or trim your pubic hair, keep your skin type in mind. This will help you avoid razor burn and other discomfort.

Shaving

Shaving is a painless way to remove hair. It’s important to take certain precautions to avoid getting a rash.

Shave in the same direction that your hair grows. Use shaving cream while shaving and apply cortisone cream after to reduce irritation.

Never share razors with anybody else, and disinfect yours before use. If you use disposable razors, replace them every so often.

Waxing or threading

Waxing involves applying warm wax to the skin and pulling the hair out from their follicles.

Threading involves twisting thread around the hairs and pulling them out by the root.

Waxing and threading can be uncomfortable — it all depends on your individual pain tolerance.

If done incorrectly, these removal methods can cause swelling and rash.

You can reduce your risk for discomfort by visiting a professional waxer or threader.

Chemical hair removal

Hair removal cream breaks down the proteins in hair so that it can be washed away and removed.

While it can be an effective way to remove hair, some people find that hair removal creams irritate their skin.

You shouldn’t use these creams if you have sensitive skin or chemical allergies.

If you do use hair removal cream, don’t apply it directly to your penis.

Trimming

If you don’t want to remove the hair entirely, you can trim it with a pair of scissors or electric trimmer.

Be sure to disinfect scissors before and after use. You should only use these scissors for grooming — using them for other tasks can spread germs.

How to prevent STIs

There are a number of ways to prevent STIs.

Get vaccinated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source recommend that everyone gets vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV) around age 11 or 12.

Doing so at a young age — before you’re sexually active — ensures that you’re protected against HPV before you’re exposed to the virus.

But if you weren’t vaccinated as a child, you may still benefit from getting vaccinated as an adult. Talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider to learn more.

Get tested after every new partner

Many STIs are asymptomatic, which means that you won’t have any noticeable symptoms.

For this reason, it’s important to get tested before having sex with a new partner. Both you and your partners should get tested.

If you or a partner has an infection, you might be able to take certain precautions to prevent it from spreading between you.

For example, if you have HIV, your partner can take Truvada (pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP) to help prevent them from contracting it.

Use a condom every time you have sex

Using a condom every time you have sex — oral, vaginal, or anal — is the best way to help prevent the spread of certain STIs.

If you don’t want to use a condom, ensure that both you and your partners don’t have any STIs.

If you suspect you’ve contracted an STI, try not to panic. Most are treatable, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Talk to a healthcare provider. They’ll help you find the cause of your symptoms and advise you on any next steps.

Common questions

At this point, you might have more questions about penis health. Here are some common concerns that many people have.

Does it matter if you’re circumcised?

Circumcision has its pros and cons. Whether you’re circumcised or not, it’s important to wash regularly.

If you have a foreskin, pull it back gently and clean it to avoid a smegma build-up. Circumcised penises are more likely to get chafed or irritated, so use loose-fitting, cotton underwear always.

Circumcision doesn’t affect fertility, but uncircumcised penises are more susceptible to STIs, as well as conditions like balanitis.

Practicing good hygiene and safe sex can reduce your chances of getting these conditions.

Does it matter if you’re a “grower” or a “shower”?

So far, there isn’t any scientific information that shows whether being a “grower” or a “shower” is better or healthier. Both are totally okay — so embrace whatever category your penis may fall into!

Is it normal for your penis to have a bend or a curve?

It’s normal for your penis to curve slightly, but if you have a significant bend and pain in your penis when it’s erect, you could have Peyronie’s disease.

This condition can cause some discomfort. It’s often caused by a traumatic injury.

If you’re concerned that you may have Peyronie’s, see a doctor or other healthcare provider.

Is “use it or lose it” true?

Many people believe that sex is a “use it or lose it” thing — that if you stop having sex, you’ll end up struggling to have sex.

While it’s true that frequent sex has many health benefits and can boost your sex drive, there’s no evidence that chastity can permanently or seriously damage your penis.

Is there such a thing as too much or too little ejaculate?

If you’re noticing that you are ejaculating a lower volume of semen than usual, it’s called perceived ejaculate volume reduction (PEVR).

This could be caused by a number of things, including depression, diabetes, and certain testicular conditions. It could also be a side effect of medication.

How can you maintain penis sensitivity as you age?

The tissue on your penis might lose sensitivity as you age. This could be caused by friction, so wear loose cotton underwear instead of tight, rough underwear.

How can you maintain your ability to get an erection?

Taking steps to reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes — both of which can cause ED — can help you maintain your ability to get an erection.

What can you do to promote fertility?

Certain foods can promote fertility. For example, spinach contains magnesium, which can boost your testosterone levels.

Tomatoes and carrots can increase your sperm count and motility.

Other than that, healthy lifestyle choices help maintain fertility.

As outlined above, avoiding tobacco smoking and alcohol, eating a balanced diet, and exercising are all important for penis health.

Is it OK if your pee changes colors?

Your urine could change colors depending on how hydrated you are:

  • Clear urine could mean you’re overhydrated.
  • Yellow to amber urine is considered normal.
  • Orange or brown urine could mean you’re dehydrated.

Some colors might also be a cause for concern.

For example, bloody, cloudy, blue, or green urine could indicate that you have an infection or another health condition.

See a doctor if you’re experiencing unusual changes in color or consistency.

What if you start peeing more than usual?

Frequent urination could be a sign of:

  • urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • diabetes
  • interstitial cystitis

If you’re peeing a lot more than usual and you think something is wrong, contact a doctor. This is especially important if you’re experiencing a burning sensation during urination.

Is it normal for your penis to smell?

Your groin might naturally smell a little like sweat, as it’s common to sweat in that area. This smell can be reduced through daily washing.

However, the smell shouldn’t be pungent. An unpleasant-smelling penis could indicate that you have a condition such as:

  • UTI
  • yeast infection
  • balanitis
  • gonorrhea
  • chlamydia

If the smell doesn’t clear with careful washing, see a doctor for diagnosis.

What if your penis is sore or inflamed?

If your penis is sore or inflamed, it could be a sign of certain penis conditions. This includes:

  • balanitis
  • phimosis, a condition where the foreskin can’t be pulled back over the head of the penis
  • penile cancer, which is rare but serious

No matter the cause, pain and inflammation can be uncomfortable, so see a healthcare provider. They can help you find relief.

Is it possible to break or fracture you penis?

Although the penis doesn’t have bones in it, the term “penis fracture” is often used to refer to a penis injury where the lining inside becomes torn. This is often caused by rough sex.

If you fracture your penis, it will turn black and blue, flatten, and it may make a popping noise. This is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.

When to see a doctor or other healthcare provider

Ideally, you should see a doctor once a year for a penile check-up.

Otherwise, you should seek medical attention if you experience:

  • bruises on the penis
  • yellow, green, or otherwise unusual penile discharge
  • swelling or inflammation of the penis
  • blisters, rashes, warts, or sores on or near your penis
  • burning, pain, or bleeding when you urinate or ejaculate
  • pain during sex
  • pain during an erection
  • difficulty getting or maintaining an erection

Check your groin for signs of infections and other conditions regularly.

If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to speak to a healthcare provider. They can help set your mind at ease and advise you on any next steps.

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.