Why is penis health important?
Keeping your penis healthy is important to keeping you healthy. A healthy penis removes urine, allows you to enjoy sex and to reproduce.
Your healthcare provider can sometimes get helpful clues about your health from problems you may have with your penis. These can indicate problems somewhere else in your body, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. A problem called erectile dysfunction (ED) can be from poor blood flow to your 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 your penis. Some are:
- Erectile dysfunction (ED). If you have ED, you can’t get or keep your penis erect (hard) enough to have sex. There are many causes for ED. Some treatments for ED are oral medications, shots and penile implants (devices).
- Priapism. This condition happens when your penis stays erect for longer than four hours. If this happens, you need to see a doctor right away. You may experience long-term ED and lasting damage to your penis if priapism isn’t treated quickly.
- Phimosis. This is when the extra skin that covers the head of your penis (foreskin) is too tight. It can’t be moved out of the way so you can see the head of your penis. This can cause infections and difficulty urinating. You may need surgery to treat this.
- Paraphimosis. This problem also affects the foreskin. With this, the foreskin moves out of the way, gets stuck and can’t move back. You need to see a doctor right away if this happens. Paraphimosis can cut off blood flow to your penis.
- Penile cancer. Rarely, masses can grow on the penis. Some of these can be cancer. Your doctor will be able to examine you and tell if you need a procedure or surgery.
- Peyronie’s disease. With this condition, hard lumps of scar tissue form on the inner lining of the side of your penis. This causes your penis to bend to one side or to narrow when erect. Doctors aren’t sure what causes this disease. It rarely gets better on its own without treatment, and you may need procedures or surgery in some cases.
- Chronic penis skin conditions (rashes, itching and scaly skin). You may have chronic skin problems like lichen sclerosis or balanitis that can affect the end of your penis. Causes include infection or allergy. Treatment is based on the cause. Be sure you always clean your penis thoroughly to help prevent this.
- Penis trauma (fracture). Although your penis has no bones, part of the lining of your penis can get torn when erect. When this happens, you may hear a popping noise. This is sometimes referred to as a penis fracture. Your penis will become flat and turn black and blue. A penis fracture is a medical emergency and should be evaluated by a urologist.
- 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 STIs can be deadly if not treated.
Common STIs include:
What are the symptoms of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
Each STI has its own set of symptoms and method of treatment. Symptoms of STIs include:
- Bumps, sores or warts near your penis.
- Swelling or redness.
- Discharge from your penis.
- Severe itching.
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Watery stools.
- Night sweats.
- Flu-like symptoms like aches, pains, fever and chills.
- Pain with sex.
- Yellowish skin all over.
Symptoms and Causes
How do I know if there is something wrong with my penis?
There are some signs and symptoms that might tell you that your penis isn’t healthy.
One way to tell if there’s a problem is to check to see if your penis looks healthy. You shouldn’t have:
- Black and blue marks on your penis (bruises).
- A painful, itchy rash on your penis.
- Blisters, warts or small red bumps on your penis.
- A mass on your penis.
- A painless sore on the shaft of your penis.
- A bend in your penis.
- Yellow or green discharge from the tip of your penis.
- Swelling at the tip of your penis.
Other signs that your penis isn’t healthy or that you might be having other issues include:
- Problems getting or keeping your penis erect.
- Burning when you go to the bathroom.
- Bleeding when you go to the bathroom or when you orgasm.
- Changes in the way you orgasm.
- Having pain when your penis is erect.
- Having pain when you have sex.
- Feeling pain after trauma to your penis.
Visually inspecting your penis on a regular basis is one way to stay aware of new signs or symptoms that could indicate problems.
Management and Treatment
What doctor should I call if I have a problem with my penis?
If you have a problem with your penis, you can start with your primary care provider. Your provider may refer you to a specialist, such as a urologist. Urologists specialize in conditions that affect the urinary system and the reproductive system. Your penis is part of both of these body systems.
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 healthcare provider or go straight to an emergency room.
Other penis problems happen over time. You’ll notice changes if you do routine checks of your penis. Your primary care provider will be able to help you manage many of these conditions.
Some people who are concerned about their penis health are afraid to ask to ask questions. It's very important to your overall health to have a good relationship with your provider. It’s important to be able to talk about all of your health concerns, including any questions you might have about your penis.
How can I keep my penis healthy?
There are some steps you can take to help maintain penis health and prevent issues from happening. You can:
- Keep your penis clean. Wash it gently every day with mild soap and water. If you 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're trying to have a baby. Be careful not to cause trauma or bending of the penis during sex.
- Protect your penis during sports and other rough activities. Wear a protective cup if needed.
- Stop smoking and using tobacco products. Tobacco is bad for your overall health and your penis health as well.
- Manage any medical problems you have. Many medical conditions and even the drugs you take for them can have an effect on how your penis functions.
- See your healthcare provider right away if you experience any changes to your penis.
When should I call my healthcare provider about penis health?
Call your healthcare 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 successful if started early.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your body is made up of many parts and systems that work together. It’s important for all of these parts and systems to stay healthy. You can help yourself by staying aware of how you look and feel when you’re healthy so that you can notice any changes that might indicate problems. When you think you might have a problem, you need to be able to speak plainly with your healthcare provider. This is as true for penis health as it is for any other body part or system.
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