Penis-enlargement products: Do they work?

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Penis-enlargement products: Do they work?

Penis-enlargement products and procedures aren't difficult to find. Men's magazines, radio shows and the Internet are full of ads for pumps, pills, weights, exercises and even surgeries that claim to increase the length and width of your penis.

However, there's very little scientific support for any nonsurgical methods to enlarge the penis. And no reputable medical organization endorses penis surgery for purely cosmetic reasons. Most of the techniques you see advertised are ineffective, and some can damage your penis. So think twice before trying any of them.

Penis size: What's normal, what's not?

The fear that your penis looks too small or is too small to satisfy your partner during sex is a common fear. But a number of studies have shown that most men who think their penises are too small actually have normal-sized penises. Similarly, studies suggest than many men have an exaggerated idea of what constitutes "normal" penis size. Consider that:

  • The average penis measures somewhere between 3 and 5 inches (or about 8 to 13 centimeters) when not erect, and between 5 and 7 inches (13 to 18 centimeters) when erect.
  • A penis is considered abnormally small only if it measures less than 3 inches (or about 7 centimeters) when erect, a condition called micropenis.

How partners view penis size

The popular media and advertisers would have you believe that your partner cares deeply about penis size. The issue of attraction is complex, but numerous studies suggest that penis size is much lower on the list of priorities for women than such issues as a man's personality. Unfortunately, there's little research about gay men's perceptions about their partners' penis size. But keep in mind that understanding your partner's needs and desires is more likely to improve your sexual relationship than trying to change the size of your penis.

Don't believe the hype

Companies offer many different types of nonsurgical penis-enlargement treatments, and often promote them with serious-looking advertisements that include endorsements from "scientific" researchers. But if you look closely, you'll see that claims of safety and effectiveness haven't been proved So, marketers rely on testimonials, skewed data and questionable before-and-after photos.

On close inspection of so-called sexual enhancement supplements, you may notice a sentence such as, "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)." Indeed, manufacturers don't have to provide evidence to the FDA of safety or effectiveness before putting dietary supplements on the market.

Penis-enlargement products

Most advertised penis-enlargement methods are ineffective, and some can cause permanent damage to your penis. Here are some of the most widely promoted products and techniques:

  • Pills and lotions. These usually contain vitamins, minerals, herbs or hormones that claim to enlarge the penis. None of these products has been proved to work, and some may be harmful.
  • Vacuum pumps. Because pumps draw blood into the penis and make it swell, they're sometimes used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Using a penis pump more often and for longer than typically used for erectile dysfunction can damage elastic tissue in the penis, leading to less-firm erections. Using a vacuum pump can create an illusion of a larger penis, but results are not permanent.
  • Exercises. Sometimes called jelqing, these exercises use a hand-over-hand motion to push blood from the base to the head of your penis. Although this technique appears safer than other methods, it can lead to scar formation, pain and disfigurement. There are no scientific studies that indicate this technique is effective at increasing penis size.
  • Stretching. Stretching consists of attaching a stretcher or extender device to the penis. These devices exert traction on the penis. A few small studies have reported increases of half an inch to almost an inch (about 1 to 2 cm) in length with these devices. However, the studies are not of high quality and more rigorous research is needed before this technique can be considered safe and effective.

Surgery is risky and may not work

Studies have shown that the majority of men who undergo penis-enlargement surgery aren't satisfied with the results. At best, surgery may add half an inch (1 cm) to the length of the flaccid penis. At worst, surgery can result in complications such as infection, scarring, and loss of sensation or function.

Surgical methods of penis enlargement — Not for cosmetic use

The need for penis-enlargement surgery is rare. Surgery is typically reserved for men whose penis doesn't function normally because of a birth defect or injury.

Although cosmetic penis enlargement is offered by some surgeons, it's controversial and considered by many to be unnecessary and potentially harmful. A few different techniques are used to lengthen a penis. All of them should be considered experimental. There aren't enough studies of penis-enlargement surgery to give an accurate picture of risks and benefits.

The most widely used surgical procedure to lengthen the penis involves severing the suspensory ligament that attaches the penis to the pubic bone and moving skin from the abdomen to the penile shaft. When this ligament is cut, the penis appears longer because more of it hangs down. But cutting the suspensory ligament can cause an erect penis to be unstable. Severing the suspensory ligament is sometimes combined with other procedures, such as removing excess fat over the pubic bone.

A procedure to make the penis thicker involves taking fat from a fleshy part of the body and injecting it into the shaft of the penis. The results are often disappointing, however, because much of the injected fat is reabsorbed by the body. This can lead to curvature or asymmetry of the penis. Another technique for increasing width is grafting tissue onto the shaft of the penis.

None of these procedures has been proved to be safe or effective.

Suspensory ligament

When the suspensory ligament is cut, the penis may look longer because more of it hangs outside the body. ...

Suspensory ligament 

A few things that might actually help

Although there's no guaranteed safe and effective way to enlarge your penis, there are a few things you can do if you're concerned about your penis size.

  • Communicate with your partner. It may be hard to break old habits or to discuss sexual preferences with your partner. But you'll be glad you did — and you may be surprised at the spark it puts back in your sex life.
  • Get in shape and lose the belly fat. If you're overweight and have a "beer gut," you might look as if you have a shorter penis than you actually do. Regular exercise can make a big difference. Better physical conditioning may not only make you look better, but can also give you more strength and endurance during sex.
  • Trim your pubic hair. A lot of pubic hair around the base of your penis can make your penis look shorter. Trimming may make your penis look bigger. It may also increase sensitivity around the base of your penis.
  • Talk to your doctor or a counselor. Feeling unhappy about the size of your penis is a common problem. A certified counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or your family doctor can help. Many men feel better with reassurance that they are "normal" or with advice about how to better satisfy their partner without resorting to cosmetic penis enlargement.

The bottom line

Many men think they have a small penis and that increasing the size of their penis will make them a better lover or make them more attractive. But chances are your penis is within the normal size range. Even if your penis is smaller than average, it may not matter as much as you thought. Before you resort to time-consuming, expensive or dangerous techniques that will be minimally effective at best, consider other options.

The most effective solution may be as easy as talking with your partner or getting in shape. If those steps don't help, try talking with a professional counselor about your concerns.

Last Updated: 2011-05-21
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