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:
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.
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.
High blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and certain neurological conditions can cause ED. Psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression can also exacerbate ED.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- spicy foods with capsaicin
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
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.
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:
- 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.
- Wash the shaft of your penis.
- 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.
- Wash your scrotum and the skin around it.
- Wash your perineum (the piece of skin between your scrotum and anus).
- 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
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 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.
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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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.
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)
- 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:
- yeast infection
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:
- 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.