Penis size is a common source of anxiety. This has fuelled a multimillion-dollar penis enlargement, or male enhancement, industry.
This article will look at the effectiveness and side effects of penis enlargement methods. It will also discuss average penis length and girth, and when a person may wish to see their doctor.
Can a person increase the size of their penis?
Most people who consider penis enlargement treatments have normal-sized penises, meaning that they are adequately sized for sexual activity and urination.
Manufacturers claim that products, including pills, creams, and stretching devices, can increase penis size. Some people also consider surgery.
However, the Urology Care Foundation points out that nearly none of these methods work.
We look at the evidence for various penis enlargement methods below:
Traction devices aim to increase the length of the penis by stretching the penile tissue. A person places a weight or small extending frame on the flaccid penis to gently lengthen it.
According to a scientific review from 2010, penile extenders are the only evidence-based technique for lengthening, and the results may not be inferior to penile surgery.
Several studies have investigated the effects of traction devices, with varying results. Some results suggest that the devices can lengthen the penis by as much as 1–3 centimeters (cm).
In most of these trials, participants wore the devices for between 4 and 6 hours a day. In one, they wore the devices for 9 hours a day.
Researchers are also investigating whether using traction devices before or after penile surgery could improve outcomes.
The evidence concerning traction devices is, however, limited. Determining their safety and effectiveness will require more research, and the Urology Care Foundation currently does not support their use.
A vacuum device contains a tube that fits over the penis. Pumping out air creates a vacuum that draws blood into the penis, causing it to swell.
People usually use vacuum devices to treat impotence, or erectile dysfunction. No strong scientific evidence suggests that they can increase penis size.
Pills and lotions
Many different pills and creams promise to increase penis size. They tend to contain various vitamins, minerals, herbs, or hormones.
There is no strong scientific evidence that any can affect the size of the penis.
There are two main types of penis enlargement surgery.
Penile augmentation involves injecting fat cells into the penis. The aim is to increase girth, or width, as well as length, in some cases
The procedure carries risks. Side effects may include swelling and distortion of the penis. If a side effect is severe, the penis may require removal.
Another method of penile augmentation involves grafting fat cells from elsewhere in the body onto the penis. This is less invasive and can add an average of 2.39–2.65 cm after 12 months.
However, the organ can lose 20–80 percent of the new volume within 1 year of surgery, so people may need multiple surgeries to achieve the desired result.
The second main type of surgery is suspensory ligament release. This ligament anchors the penis to the pubic area and provides support during an erection. If a surgeon cuts the ligament, this changes the angle of the penis, which can make it look longer.
On average, suspensory ligament release can increase flaccid penis length by between 1–3 cm, but patient and partner satisfaction rates tend to be low. The lack of support during an erection can make penetration difficult.
Like the Urology Care Foundation, the American Urological Association state that penile augmentation surgery is neither safe nor effective.
Average penis size
Penises come in all shapes and sizes, and they can vary considerably.
A 2014 study, which included 15,521 men from around the world, determined that:
- The average flaccid penis was 9.16 cm, or 3.61 inches (in), long and 9.31 cm (3.66 in) in girth.
- The average erect penis was 13.12 cm (5.16 in) long and 11.66 cm (4.59 cm) in girth.
The authors estimated that 5 percent of men have an erect penis longer than 16 cm. In another 5 percent, the erect penis would be shorter than around 10 cm.
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When is surgery an option?
The medical community only deems surgery necessary if a person has a condition called micro-penis. This term describes a penis that is 7.5 cm or shorter when stretched.
Risks and side effects of penis enlargement
Penis enlargement surgery can cause several side effects, including swelling and infection. These can be so severe that the penis requires removal.
Surgery can also cause erectile dysfunction.
In addition, overusing a vacuum pump can damage penile tissue, which can lead to weaker erections.
Tips to improve sex life
Negative feelings about penis size can inhibit a person’s enjoyment. Most penis enlargement methods do not work, but counseling can help by building self-esteem and correcting distorted ideas related to body image.
Other top tips include trimming the pubic hair, which can make the penis seem larger.
Also, carrying extra weight around the belly can make the penis appear smaller.
When to see a doctor
A person with a condition called penile dysmorphophobia disorder (PDD) may benefit from talking with a doctor.
There are two types of the disorder, but both involve consistently underestimating the size of one’s own penis, while overestimating the sizes of those belonging to others.
This can lead to feelings of depression, sexual anxiety, and sexual dysfunction. Some people with the disorder find it difficult to get or maintain an erection, and they experience a lack of sexual satisfaction.
PDD is a form of body dysmorphia. This classification describes an all-consuming preoccupation with what a person perceives to be a flaw in their appearance.
Small penis anxiety (SPA)
People with this condition are often so concerned that others will consider their penis to be small that they do not want to get undressed around people.
Many men are anxious about their penis size, and this has fuelled a huge market for enlargement products and techniques.
However, limited evidence suggests that any of these methods are effective, and many come with serious risks.
Anyone concerned about the size of their penis may wish to talk to a doctor or sex therapist.