What Is Penile Atrophy?

Men over the age of 60 may experience penile atrophy.
Aging and disease can cause the penis to atrophy, or become smaller.
A drop in testosterone levels may lead to penile atrophy.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2014
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Penile atrophy is a reduction in the size of the penis that may be the result of aging or disease. This particular organ naturally grows and shrinks in size, depending on situational factors like arousal and extreme cold. Atrophy, however, represents a long-term change in the size or shape of the penis, or of structures like the foreskin. A patient who notices such changes can discuss them with a urologist, who can perform an evaluation to learn more about the cause and provide some treatment recommendations.

As men age, shifting deposits of body fat may cause the penis to appear smaller, although this is not actually the case. Older men do eventually start to develop penile atrophy, usually after around age 60, as a result of reduced bloodflow to the organ. People with conditions like atherosclerosis are more likely to experience this, because plaques in the arteries obstruct the flow of blood and the tissues in the penis start to shrink as a result. Erections also tend to be smaller, because they rely on an ample supply of blood.

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Another potential cause of atrophy of the penis is a drop in testosterone levels. This often occurs as part of systemic disease or in the course of treatment for a condition like prostate cancer. Men will also notice other symptoms, like shrinking testicles. An endocrinologist can run a blood test to see if testosterone levels are normal and determine if hormone therapy would be appropriate for the patient. Taking testosterone can expose people to the risk of side effects and they need to weigh the pros and cons before moving forward with therapy.

Connective tissue diseases involving the penis can also contribute to this condition. Patients may notice other symptoms, like a change in the curvature of the penis, difficulty getting and maintaining an erection, and changes in the texture or color of the skin. A medical professional should examine the patient and conduct an interview, and it may be necessary to run some tests to determine the origins of the disease and develop an effective treatment plan.

Penile atrophy can make men feel uncomfortable. Patients in treatment should make sure to discuss their concerns with a medical professional. Most healthcare professional understand that, while it may not be medically necessary to address changes in penis shape or size because they may not be dangerous, it may be beneficial for a patient's mental health to explore some options for correcting the problem. In cases where atrophy is accompanied by erectile dysfunction, treating it can make a significant difference in a patient's quality of life.

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anon341336
Post 9

I have never been longer than 5 1/2 inches. I have fathered two children. I have been the same size as in all my 67 years. I am having trouble with morning erections. My wife is ill with RA and other diseases and had not allowed closeness in fifteen years. I feel the need to self care for the emptying of my prostate, not often, but it helps. I will not cheat on her.

anon283060
Post 8

I was diagnosed in my early 30s with a very low testosterone level, which may have been due to an accidental impact to my groin at age 15. At 16, I begin to notice the rapidly spreading hair up my stomach suddenly stopped and around 28 I began losing hair under my arms.

I didn't really become seriously bothered by my 5" penis, which also seems small in diameter, until my urologist put me on 5mg/ day of transdermal testosterone. My testicles also shrank by 70 percent or more, which contributes to my distress over my ppareent size.

I've been told that I'm about average in size by my urologist, but it just doesn't seem right. I recall being very satisfied in my youth and wish I could somehow regain this confidence. It's seriously affected my self image, desire for intimate involvement and sex life.

anon280446
Post 7

I'm a 30 year old guy. At about the age of 16, I developed a varicocele adjoining my left testicle, had a kidney infection, plus appendicitis in a period of about 12 months. My penis and testicles underwent a huge change, where they became harder, less sensitive and greatly shrunken. My penis size dropped about two inches, and my libido has never recovered.

It is still to this day a huge problem for me. Sadly, GPs seem reluctant to recognise any problem and tend to recommend counseling and anti-depressants rather than any real treatment.

If anyone has any info that could help, it would be greatly appreciated. I really think this is a grossly under-diagnosed problem for a lot of men.

JaneAir
Post 6

You know, I hope that anyone dealing with this issue ends up with a doctor with a nice bedside manner. Because as the article said, penile atrophy isn't actually medically dangerous. So there's really no reason to treat it, except for psychological and quality of life reasons.

I can imagine a doctor who was lacking in empathy being reluctant to spend time on this condition. Especially if the hormone therapy that treats this condition causes unpleasant side effects. I know some doctors like to weight the benefits of taking medications with their positive effects.

JessicaLynn
Post 5

@Pharoah - Actually, I think that most health issues concerning the reproductive system aren't that well publicized. There are a lot of conditions of the female reproductive system that aren't very well known either. I think people in general are uncomfortable dealing with problems in that area of the body.

Anyway, it sounds like all men are at risk for developing penile atrophy, which is kind of disturbing. I mean, getting old sounds bad enough as it is, but that sounds really rough.

Pharoah
Post 4

I've never heard of penile or testicular atrophy before, which actually isn't that surprising. I feel like men's health issues (besides erectile dysfunction, of course) aren't that well publicized.

I think a lot of this has to do with the embarrassment men feel about these problems. A lot of men consider their penis as a direct representation of their virility and worth as a man. To admit that there is something wrong "down there" would probably be really hard for a lot of men. So I imagine this is why this issue isn't more publicized.

ZipLine
Post 3

@MikeMason-- Did you have any injury where you received a blow to the penis and testicles? Because that could be another reason for atrophy.

It happened to me when I was in high school. I got a blow to the area while playing soccer which damaged a vein that carries blood to the penis and testicles. Until the vein recovered, I had atrophy in my penis.

I also had a friend who experienced the same because of hormones. The interesting part was that he had enough testosterone, but his estrogen was too high. So he took medications to lower his estrogen and everything went back to normal.

It seems like there are so many different reasons as to why this could happen.

ddljohn
Post 2

@MikeMason-- Yea, penile atrophy can happen to young men too. You cannot know what is causing it without going to the doctor for an examination and having tests done. Please don't be afraid to see a doctor about this. There is nothing to be ashamed of, many men experience this sometime in their lifetime.

As far as I know, penile atrophy usually happens to young men in their thirties, especially if they've gained weight recently and have become less active. Hormonal imbalance and underproduction of testosterone is of course another major cause like the article mentioned. A simple blood test can tell if your testosterone levels are abnormal.

Since you said that you are underweight, I'm sure that malnutrition could be a factor too. Like I said, see a doctor so that whatever the underlying cause is, it can be treated. Waiting might make things worse.

stoneMason
Post 1

Just curious, can penis atrophy happen to someone who is young? And if so, what might be the cause of it? Hormones?

I'm in my twenties, and for the last couple of years, my penis and testicles appear smaller than they used to. I think there is some decrease in erectile function too.

To be honest, I've been avoiding going to the doctor because I don't think that I could be having penis atrophy at this age. I'm generally health, a little bit underweight, but that's all. I'm also not comfortable with discussing this with someone face to face.

If anyone has any information about penile atrophy in the young, I would appreciate it if you could share it with me here.

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