The length of your penis size can decrease by up to an inch or so for various reasons. Usually, changes to penis size are smaller than an inch, however, and may be closer to 1/2 an inch or less. A slightly shorter penis won’t affect your ability to have an active, satisfying sex life.
Like the rest of the body, your penis changes as you get older — in appearance, function, and potential for health problems.
Most of these changes are normal and don’t require medical attention. In many cases, the penis changes because of conditions affecting the rest of your body, such as reduced circulation, hormonal shifts, changes in the nature of your skin, and other factors.
But there are symptoms that can affect the sexual and urinary functions of the penis to the point where a medical evaluation may be necessary.
It’s helpful to know what to expect so that you won’t be surprised or overly worried — a number of age-related problems can be treated, while others can be prevented or delayed.
Causes for penis size shrinkage
The typical causes of loss of length in your penis include:
- prostate surgery
- a curving of the penis, known as Peyronie’s disease
As you get older, your penis and testicles may get slightly smaller. One reason is the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries reducing blood flow to your penis. This can cause withering of the muscle cells in the spongy tubes of erectile tissue inside your penis. The erectile tissue becomes engorged with blood to produce erections.
Over time, scarring from repeated small injuries to your penis during sex or sports activities can cause scar tissue to build up. This buildup occurs in the formerly supple and elastic sheath that surrounds the spongy erectile tissues in your penis. That could reduce overall size and limit the size of erections.
If you gain weight, particularly around your lower abdomen, your penis may start to look shorter. That’s because the thick pad of fat starts to envelop the shaft of your penis. When you look down at it, your penis may seem to have gotten smaller. In extremely obese men, fat can enclose most of the penis.
Up to 70 percent Trusted Source of men experience mild to moderate shortening of their penis after having a cancerous prostate gland removed. This procedure is called radical prostatectomy.
Experts aren’t sure why the penis shortens after prostatectomy. One possible cause is abnormal muscle contractions in a man’s groin that pull the penis farther into their body.
Difficulty getting erections after this surgery starves the erectile tissue of oxygen, which shrinks muscle cells in the spongy erectile tissue. Less stretchy scar tissue forms around the erectile tissue.
If you experience shortening after prostate surgery, the usual range is 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch Trusted Source, as measured when the penis is stretched out while flaccid, or not erect. Some men experience no shortening or only a small amount. Others experience more shortening than average.
In Peyronie’s disease, the penis develops an extreme curvature that makes intercourse painful or impossible. Peyronie’s can reduce the length and girth of your penis. Surgery to remove the scar tissue that causes Peyronie’s can also reduce the size of the penis.
When to see a doctor
If you are scheduled for radical prostatectomy, discuss penile shortening with your doctor so they can answer your questions and reassure you about any concerns you have.
If you begin to develop curvature of your penis with pain and swelling, it may be a sign of Peyronie’s disease. See a urologist for this. This doctor specializes in problems of the urinary tract.
Erectile function can be maintained with aging by:
- remaining physically active
- eating a nutritious diet
- not smoking
- avoiding the consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol
Maintaining erectile function is important because erections fill the penis with oxygen-rich blood, which could prevent shortening.
If your penis shortens after prostate removal, you should be patient and wait. In many cases, the shortening will reverse within 6 to 12 months.
After surgery, your doctor might suggest a treatment called penile rehabilitation. It means taking drugs for erectile dysfunction, like sildenafil (Viagra) or tadalafil (Cialis), and using a vacuum device to boost blood flow to your penis.
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Most men have trouble after surgery getting erections, which starves the tissues in the penis of oxygen-rich blood. Nourishing those sensitive tissues with fresh blood may prevent tissue loss. Not all studies show penile rehabilitation really works, but you may want to try.
For Peyronie’s disease, treatments focus on reducing or removing scar tissue under the surface of the penis with medication, surgery, ultrasound, and other steps. There is one medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Peyronie’s called collagenase (Xiaflex).
Penis shrinkage from Peyronie’s can’t be reversed. Your main concern will be reducing curvature to restore your sex life.
What happens to your penis as you get older age?
Once the penis stops growing and maturing — usually in your early 20s — it doesn’t change much for the next several years. But as plaque starts to build up in the arteries throughout the body and testosterone levels start to dip (typically in your 40s), changes to the penis can become apparent.
Penis shrinkage can occur with aging, but this does not affect the function of the penis and does not need to be addressed with medical treatment unless you’re concerned with the function of your penis.
Testicular atrophy (shrinkage of the testicles) is also a normal part of aging. Combined with the loss of skin elasticity throughout the body and the effects of gravity, the scrotum and penis can both sag and look more wrinkled with age.
A reduction in blood flow may also lighten the color of the penis later in life.
As you get older, you may notice changes in sexual function, particularly in the frequency and nature of erections.
The inability to achieve and maintain an erection long enough for all partners to be satisfied, or erectile dysfunction (ED), is more common among older adults. You may also be concerned with the perception that your erections aren’t as firm as they were when you were younger, another aspect of ED.
The penis also tends to become somewhat less sensitive through the years. That means it may take you more time and more stimulation to become aroused than it did years ago.
Desensitization is common and typically does result in ED as well as more trouble achieving orgasm. Sometimes, these orgasms may also feel less satisfying. And the natural enlargement of the prostate as you ageTrusted Source can also reduce your semen volume, making you feel that you’re not as potent as you once were.
According to a study in the International Journal of Impotence ResearchTrusted Source, your odds of developing curvature of the penis — a condition known as Peyronie’s disease — increases when you reach your 50s. But Peyronie’s disease can occur at just about any age.
As you get older, a growing prostate can squeeze against your bladder and urethra.
You may have to urinate more frequently, but notice a weaker stream with less urine released when you pee.
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Medical conditions affecting the penis may become more common as you age.
You may experience pain when urinating or when you have an erection, which can both be brought on by a number of chronic or temporary medical conditions.
Lesions or rashes on the penis can be signs of infection or other health concerns. Likewise, the appearance of dark spots on the penis could be harmless penile melanosis or, in rarer cases, signs of penile cancer.
This is the most common cancer in people with penises aside from skin cancer. If left untreated, prostate cancer can cause changes in:
- the appearance of the penis
- sexual function
When you’re older than 50, you should see a doctor at least once a year for a prostate cancer screening. You may consider starting these screenings earlier if you have a family history of prostate cancer or other risk factors.
Penile cancer is a rare complication that almost exclusively happens in older people with uncircumcised penises. Common early symptoms of penile cancer include:
- foreskin can’t retract back over the penis shaft
- foreskin feel stuck in place
- sore or lesion appears on the foreskin or glans (head) of the penis
See a doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
What causes the penis to change with age?
Why does aging cause all these changes to the penis? It’s often a result of normal aging, with much of it caused by:
- reduced blood flow caused by plaque buildup in the arteries and a loss of elasticity of the blood vessels throughout the body as you age
- loss of smooth muscle cells in the penis — these are largely replaced by collagen cells, according to research in Arab Journal of Urology Trusted Source
- declining levels of testosterone — the hormone that drives sexual desire, positive mood, and many bodily functions
Sharp, chronic pain in your penis can indicate an issue requiring medical attention. If pain occurs when urinating, the cause may include:
- kidney or bladder stones
- sexual transmitted disease
- penile cancer
- priapism (erection that lasts 4 or more hours)
Peyronie’s disease, which causes a curvature of the penis, usually develops after years of scar tissue buildup from rough sex, sports injuries, or other accidents that can cause the penis to bend slightly.
Will I stop ejaculating?
The amount of ejaculate tends to diminish as you get older. But if you notice a sudden change, especially in the texture and color and the amount of ejaculate that comes out during a single ejaculation, talk with a doctor. Generally, this change occurs gradually and is simply a result of aging.
Another change you may see as you age is hematospermia. This happens when your semen becomes tinged with blood and appears reddish in color. This can indicate an inflammation or infection of your prostate (prostatitis). This is relatively common as you age Trusted Source.
If you’re no longer able to achieve an erection or become sexually aroused, then ejaculation may no longer be possible either.
But with erectile dysfunction treatment, the ability to ejaculate late in life is still possible for most people with penises.
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When should I see a doctor?
The following changes should prompt you to visit a doctor or urology specialist:
- sudden changes in sexual desire and/or sexual function
- bleeding with urination or ejaculation
- lesions, rashes, bumps, or other noticeable changes to the penis’ appearance
- abnormal curve or bend in the penis
- discharge from the penis
- pain in the penis or scrotum
Are there treatments for penis changes?
Treating conditions associated with an aging penis are usually aimed at improving function and managing symptoms.
Some common treatments include:
- ED medications and other treatments, such as surgical implants of penile prosthetics, to help treat the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. These treatments are not cures for the underlying causes of ED.
- Surgery or injections of medications for Peyronie’s disease to disrupt collagen formation in the penis to help reduce penis curvature and relieve other symptoms.
- Antibiotics or medications to address urinary symptoms associated with a urinary tract infection (UTI) or an abnormally enlarged prostate and to help improve your urine flow.
- Kegel exercises after prostatectomy to help you hold in urine if you have prostate issues or other urinary conditions that cause incontinence.
- Surgery to remove masses or tissues that may affect penis appearance and function or contain cancerous cells.
Like the rest of the body, the penis changes with age. But changes in appearance don’t necessarily mean any changes in the health of your penis.
The health of the penis and your reproductive and urinary systems are the most important considerations when deciding whether to seek treatment for changes to an aging penis. ED is not inevitable, but several effective treatments help many people with ED. And if you adopt a healthy lifestyle and work with a doctor to help prevent or quickly diagnose other conditions that affect the penis, you may be more likely to adapt to these changes before they become more severe or problematic over time.