Why is penis health so important?

All men should think about penis health. A man must have a healthy penis to function as a healthy person. He needs a healthy penis to remove urine and maintain the right fluid balance in his body. A healthy penis is needed for sex and to get a woman pregnant.

A problem with the penis can sometimes be a helpful clue for the doctor. It may be a hint about a problem somewhere else in the body, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease. A problem called erectile dysfunction (ED) can be due to poor blood flow to the penis. If you have ED, your doctor will know to check for these other problems.

What can go wrong with my penis?

There are many conditions that can affect the penis. Some are:

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) — Men with ED can’t get or keep their penis erect (hard) enough to have sex. There are many causes for ED. Some treatments for ED are drugs, shots and implants.
  • Priapism — This is when a man’s penis stays erect for more than four hours. If this happens, you need to see a doctor right away. Long-term ED and lasting damage to the penis can occur if this is not treated quickly.
  • Phimosis — This is when the extra skin that covers the head of the penis (foreskin) is too tight. It can’t be moved out of the way so you can see the penis head. Surgery may be used to treat this.
  • Paraphimosis — This problem also affects the foreskin. With this, the foreskin moves out of the way, but it can’t move back. It gets stuck. You need to see a doctor right away. If this happens, it can cut off blood flow to the penis.
  • Peyronie’s disease — With this condition, hard lumps of scar tissue form on the inner lining of the side of the penis. This causes the penis to bend to one side when erect. Doctors are not sure what causes this disease. It often gets better on its own without treatment. Surgery is used in severe cases.
  • Chronic penis skin conditions (rashes, itching and scaly skin) — A chronic skin problem called lichen sclerosis or balanitis can affect the end of the penis. Causes include infection, allergy and poor cleaning habits. Treatment is based on the cause. Be sure you always clean your penis thoroughly to help prevent this.
  • Penis trauma (fracture) — The penis has no bones. It is part of the lining of the penis that gets torn when a fracture occurs. When this happens, you may hear a popping noise. Your penis will become flat and turn black and blue. A penis fracture is a medical emergency.
  • Penis cancer — Cancer of the penis is rare in the US. It occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control and take over normal cells. Many of the symptoms of penis cancer are common to other conditions. They include color changes, skin sores, ulcers, growths and a rash on the head or shaft of the penis. Doctors don’t know for sure what causes penile cancer. Surgery is the main treatment. The doctor might also use chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — STIs are passed from person to person through sex. There are more than 20 known STIs. They are caused by germs that grow well in warm, moist places. Some STIs can be cured. Some you have for the rest of your life. Some can be deadly if not treated. Common STIs include:

    Each STI has its own set of symptoms and method of treatment. Some broad symptoms of STIs include bumps, sores or warts near your penis. You might have swelling or redness. Discharge from your penis and severe itching are also symptoms. Sometimes, a person with an STI will lose weight, have watery stools or sweat a lot at night. You might have flu-like symptoms. These include aches, pains, fever and chills. It might hurt to have sex. Your skin might turn a little yellowish.

How do I know if there is something wrong with my penis?

There are some symptoms of penis problems to look for that might tell you there’s a problem with your penis. Some are:

  • Black and blue marks on your penis (bruises)
  • Problems getting or keeping your penis erect
  • Yellow or green discharge from the tip of your penis
  • Burning when you go to the bathroom
  • Bleeding when you go to the bathroom or when you orgasm (come)
  • Painful, itchy rash on your penis
  • Blisters, warts or small, red bumps on your penis
  • Painless sore on the shaft of your penis
  • Changes in the way you orgasm
  • Pain when your penis is erect
  • Swelling of the tip of your penis
  • Pain when you have sex
  • Pain after trauma to your penis
  • A bend in your penis

Visually inspecting your penis regularly to stay aware of any new symptoms or conditions that may occur is healthy and beneficial. 

How can I make sure I have a healthy penis?

There are some steps you can take to help maintain penis health and prevent issues that can impact your penis. Some are:

  • Keep your penis clean. Wash it gently every day with a mild soap and water. If you still have your foreskin, be sure to clean underneath it as well.
  • Check your penis on a routine basis. (This check should include all of your sex organs such as your testicles and scrotum.) Check for anything that looks odd or wasn’t there the last time you checked.
  • Limit your sex partners. Use a condom when you have sex, unless you are trying to have a baby.
  • Protect your penis during sports and other rough activities. Wear a protective cup if needed.
  • Stop smoking. It is bad for your total health and your penis health as well.
  • Manage your health. Many medical conditions and even the drugs you take for them can have an effect on how your penis functions.
  • See your doctor right away if you experience any changes to your penis.

What should I do if I have a problem with my penis?

Some problems need medical attention right away. These include priapism, paraphimosis, and penis fracture. Don’t panic. Call your doctor or go straight to the hospital. Other penis problems happen over time. You will notice a change if you do routine checks of your penis. Your primary care provider will be able to manage many of these conditions for you. If not, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in penis health, called a urologist.

Further, many men who are concerned about their penis health are afraid to ask. It's very important to be open and honest with your doctor about concerns you have with your penis.

When should I call my health care provider?

Call your health care provider if you notice any of the problems listed above. Call if there’s anything that’s different about how your penis looks, feels or functions. Treatment for many penis problems can be a success if started early.

References

  • Cleveland Clinic. Penile Disorders Accessed 12/9/2014.
  • American Academy of Family Physicians via familydoctor.org. Health Tools: Genital Problems in Men Accessed 12/9/2014.
  • American Urological Association. Urology A to Z Accessed 12/9/2014.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/23/2014...#15666