5 Reasons Your Penis May Be Shrinking

Andrew Siegel MD   7/7/18

Today’s entry is not about the moment-to-moment changes in penis size based upon ambient temperature and level of arousal, but to permanent alterations in penile length and girth that can occur for a variety of physical reasons. The preservation of penile dimensions is contingent upon having healthy, well-oxygenated, supple and elastic penile tissues that are used on a regular basis for the purposes nature intended.

 sculpture emasculated Reykjavik

Above photo I recently shot in Reykjavik, Iceland

Penis size is a curiosity and fascination to men and women alike. An ample endowment is often associated with virility, vigor, and sexual prowess.   There is good reason that the words “cocky” and “cocksure” mean possessing confidence.

What’s normal?

With all biological parameters, there is a bell curve with a wide range of variance, with most clustered in the middle and outliers at either end. The penis is no exception, with some men phallically endowed, some phallically challenged, but most somewhere in the middle. Alfred Kinsey studied 3500 penises and found that the average flaccid length was 8.8 centimeters (3.5 inches), the average erect length ranged between 12.9 -15 centimeters (5-6 inches) and the average circumference of the erect penis was 12.3 centimeters (4.75 inches).

Who cares?

Interestingly, 85% or so of women are perfectly satisfied with their partner’s penile size, while only 55% of men are satisfied with their own penis size.

5 Reasons for a Shrunken Penis

  1. Weight gain: Big pannus/small penis

The ravages of poor lifestyle habits wreak havoc on penile anatomy and function.  The big pannus (“apron” of abdominal fat) that accompanies weight gain and especially obesity cause a shorter appearing penis.  In actuality, most of the time penile length is intact, with the penis merely buried in the fat pad.  It is estimated that for every 35 lbs of weight gain, there is a one-inch loss in apparent penile length.

The shorter appearing and more internal penis can be difficult to find, which causes less precision of the urinary stream that sprays and dribbles, often requiring the need to sit to urinate. Additionally, the weight gain and poor lifestyle give rise to difficulty achieving and maintaining erections.  This shorter and less functional penis and the need to sit to urinate is downright emasculating.

Solution: Lose the fat and presto…the penis reappears and urinary and sexual function improve.

  1. Disuse atrophy: Use it or lose it

Like any other organ in the body, the penis needs to be used on a regular basis, as nature intended.  If one goes too long without an erection, collagen, smooth muscle, elastin and other erectile tissues may become compromised, resulting in a loss of penile length and girth and limiting one’s ability to achieve an erection. In a vicious cycle, loss of sexual function can lead to further progression of the problem as poor genital blood flow causes low oxygen levels in the genital tissues, that, in turn, can induce scarring, which further compounds the problem.

Solution: Exercise your penis by being sexual active on a regular basis, just as you maintain your general fitness by going to the gym or participating in sports.

  1. Peyronie’s disease: Scar in a bad place

Peyronie’s disease is scarring of the covering sheaths of the erectile chambers. It is thought to be due to the cumulative effects of chronic penile micro-trauma.  The scar tissue is hard and inelastic and prevents proper expansion of the erectile chambers, resulting in penile shortening, deformity, angulation and pain. In the early acute phase—that can evolve and change over time—most men notice a painful lump or hardness in the penis when they have an erection as well as a bent or angulated erect penis. In its more mature chronic phase, the pain disappears, but the hardness and angulation persist, often accompanied by penile shortening and narrowing where the scar tissue is that gives the appearance of a “waistband.”  Many men as a result of Peyronies will have difficulty obtaining and maintaining an erection.

Peyronies can also occur as a consequence of a penile fracture, an acute traumatic injury of the covering sheath of the erectile chamber.  This most commonly happens from a pelvic thrusting miss-stroke during sexual intercourse when the erect penis strikes the female perineum or pubis and ruptures.  This is an emergency that requires surgical repair to prevent the potential for Peyronie’s disease.

Solution: If you notice a painful lump, a bend, shortening and deformity, see a urologist for management as the Peyronies is treatable once the acute phase is over and the scarring stabilizes.  If you experience a penile fracture after a miss-stroke—marked by an audible pop, acute pain, swelling and bruising—head to the emergency room ASAP.

  1. Pelvic surgery

After surgical removal of the prostate, bladder or colon for management of cancer, it is not uncommon to experience a decrease in penile length and girth.  This occurs due to damage to the nerves and blood vessels to the penis that run in the gutter between the prostate gland and the colon. The nerve and blood vessel damage can cause erectile dysfunction, which leads to disuse atrophy, scarring and penile shrinkage.

In particular, radical prostatectomy—the surgical removal of the entire prostate gland as a treatment for prostate cancer—can cause penile shortening. The shortening is likely based on several factors. The gap in the urethra (because of the removed prostate) is bridged by sewing the bladder neck to the urethral stump, with a consequent loss of length from a telescoping phenomenon.  Traumatized and impaired nerves and blood vessels vital for erections give rise to erectile dysfunction. The lack of regular erections results in less oxygen delivery to penile smooth muscle and elastic fibers with subsequent scarring and shortening, a situation discussed above (disuse atrophy).

Solution: Resuming sexual activity as soon as possible after radical pelvic surgery will help “rehabilitate” the penis and prevent disuse atrophy. There are a number of effective penile rehabilitation strategies to get “back in the saddle” to help prevent disuse atrophy.

  1. Anti-testosterone treatment

“Androgen deprivation therapy” is a common means of suppressing the male hormone testosterone, used as a form of treatment for prostate cancer. Because testosterone is an important hormone for maintaining the health and the integrity of the penis, the low testosterone levels resulting from such therapy can result in penile atrophy and shrinkage.

Solution: This is a tough one.  Because of the resulting low testosterone levels, most men have a diminished sex drive and simply lose interest in sex and “use it or lose it” becomes challenging. Furthermore, many men on this therapy have already had a radical prostatectomy and or pelvic radiation therapy, so often have compromised erections even before using androgen deprivation therapy. Anecdotally, I have had a few patients who have managed to pursue an active sex life and maintain penile stature with the use of Viagra or other medications in its class. 

Wishing you the best of health!

2014-04-23 20:16:29

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Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food


These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx



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One Response to “5 Reasons Your Penis May Be Shrinking”

  1. Man’s Favorite Organ: 20 Facts and Curiosities | Our Greatest Wealth Is Health Says:

    […] Penile shortening can occur with disuse atrophy, radical prostatectomy, Peyronie’s disease, testosterone deficiency, abdominal obesity, and any form of damage and scarring of the tissue within the erectile chambers of the penis. […]

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