Penis-enlargement scams: You're more normal than you think

By Mayo Clinic Staff -

Penis-enlargement products and procedures aren't difficult to find. Men's magazines, sports radio shows and Internet sites are filled with ads for pumps, pills, weights, exercises and surgeries many of which claim to increase the length and girth of your penis.

There are plenty of opportunists trying to convince you that your penis is too small and they are often promoting just the miracle solution to fix it. These solicitations are based on stereotypes about men's insecurities.

If you are like the vast majority of men who wonder if their penis size is normal, the answer is yes. While some men do fall for the hype and are looking for a way to enlarge their penis, it generally isn't a good idea. No scientific research supports the use of any nonsurgical method to enlarge the penis and no reputable medical society endorses penis-enlargement surgery performed for purely cosmetic reasons. Because many of these techniques can damage your penis and some may even cause impotence, think twice before trying any of them.

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

Most likely, your size is within the normal range. Studies show the average penis measures between 3 and 4 inches when flaccid and between 5 and 7 inches when erect. A penis is considered abnormally small only if it measures less than 3 inches when erect (a condition called micropenis) but even then, researchers have documented many cases in which men with micropenises have been fully capable of having satisfactory sex and fathering children.

Most men who think their penis is abnormally small actually have normal-sized penises. In recent studies, hundreds of men who sought the advice of their doctor because of concern about the size of their penis all had penises that measured in the normal range.

How partners view penis size

Advertisers would have you believe that your partner cares deeply about penis size. While some women say it matters, most women say size is unimportant. Advertisements would also have you believe that gay men are obsessed with penis size. But in most cases, penis size is a matter of personal preference for both you and your partner.

A penis that is too big may not be an advantage during sex. During intercourse, the tip of a long penis can strike a woman's cervix and cause pain for a woman. And most of the sensitive nerves of the vagina are located close to the opening where penis length isn't an issue. If your partner suggests your penis is too small, discuss creative ways to deliver sexual satisfaction.

Unless your partner tells you otherwise, assume that you're fine just the way you are. Understanding your partner's physical and emotional needs and desires is much more likely to improve your sexual relationship than trying to change the size of your penis.

Be wary of penis enlargement techniques

Marketers offer many different types of nonsurgical penis enlargement, and often promote them with serious-looking advertisements that include endorsements from "scientific" researchers.

But if you look and read closely, you'll see that claims of safety and effectiveness are groundless. No reputable scientific research validates any type of nonsurgical penis enlargement, so marketers rely on testimonials, skewed data and before-and-after photos that often aren't authentic.

At the bottom of such advertisements, you'll usually find a sentence such as "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)." Indeed, the FDA, the government agency that regulates medications and medical devices, has never approved any medications or devices for enlarging a penis.

Be wary of these common and ineffective penis enlargement techniques, some of which can result in serious damage:

  • Manual squeezing exercises (jelquing). These exercises, which use a hand-over-hand motion to push blood from the base to the head of a semierect penis, are supposed to be performed on a regular basis. Although this technique may be 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 with weights. This technique, which involves wearing weights on the flaccid penis, may cause permanent penile damage. There's no scientific evidence that this technique increases penis size.

  • Vacuum pumps. Because pumps draw blood into the penis and make it swell, they're useful in the treatment of impotence (erectile dysfunction). This may create an illusion of a larger penis, but results are seldom permanent. Repeated use can damage elastic tissue in the penis, leading to less-firm erections.

  • Pills and lotions. These usually contain vitamins, minerals, herbs or hormones such as testosterone that claim to enlarge the penis. None of these products has been shown to be effective.

Surgical methods of penis enlargement not for cosmetic use

Some surgeons have developed several different enlargement techniques, none of them endorsed by medical organizations. The American Urological Association, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons(ASPS) have all issued policy statements against cosmetic surgical procedures to enhance the penis.

A few different techniques are used to lengthen a penis. All of them are experimental. There aren't enough studies of penis augmentation surgery to give an accurate picture of results and risks of complications.

One 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 may look longer because more of it hangs down. But cutting the suspensory ligament can cause an erect penis to be unstable and position itself at odd angles, particularly when erect.

Another operation advances a skin flap from the pubic area onto the penis. This procedure can lead to severe deformities, such as hair growth on the base of the penis, scarring and other problems.

Some procedures to make the penis thicker involve suctioning fat from a fleshy part of the body and injecting the fat into the penis. Another technique is simply to graft fat cut away from the buttocks or abdomen onto the penile shaft. Some practitioners use tissue from cadavers.

None of these techniques has been proved to be safe or effective. The ASPS considers injecting fat into the penis of unproven benefit and unknown safety. Potential risks of these techniques include infection, loss of sensation in the skin, excessive bleeding and loss of penile function. While this may increase penis girth, the body can reabsorb the fat over time and cause an irregular contour to the penis. In one study, less than a third of the injected fat remained after one year following injection.

Surgery is risky, costly and unlikely to produce satisfactory results

Studies have shown that the majority of men who undergo penis enlargement surgery aren't satisfied with the results. Surgery may at best add an average of half an inch to the length of the flaccid penis. Surgery may not add any length to the erect penis.

Following various types of cosmetic penile enhancement surgery, some men have had to undergo additional operations to correct deformities caused by the original procedure. The ill effects include scarring, a shorter penis, hair on the base of the penis, a low-hanging penis, loss of sensitivity and abnormal fat lumps. Other complaints include impotence (erectile dysfunction), urinary incontinence and persistent pain.

Then there's the cost: as much as $10,000 for a typical penis-enlargement surgery that doesn't require additional corrective surgery. Because cosmetic surgery is seldom covered by insurance, you'll likely have to bear the entire expense.

When surgery may be an option

There are procedures for reconstructing penises that have been amputated or damaged by circumcisions, animal bites, motor vehicle accidents and physical assaults, among other causes. A penis can be constructed in sex-change operations and to correct birth defects.

A few things that might help?

While there is no safe, 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 have an open dialogue about you and your partner's sexual preferences. 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. Enhance your appearance in other ways. Regular exercise can make a big difference. Better physical conditioning may not only make you look better, it can also give you more strength and endurance during sex.

  • Lose the belly. The place that size might help the most is less belly not more penis. If your lower abdomen hangs over your genitalia, you might look as if you have a shorter, smaller penis than you actually do. Fat can obscure some or much of the upper part of the penis. For this, the best treatment is to achieve a healthy weight.

  • Trim your pubic hair. A lot of pubic hair around the base of your penis can make your penis look shorter. Trimming may not only make your penis look bigger but 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 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 and even if it is smaller than average, it may not matter as much as you thought. Consider other options before you resort to time-consuming, expensive or dangerous techniques that will be minimally effective at best. The most effective solution may be as easy as open communication with your partner, talking with a professional counselor or enhancing yourself in other ways.

Show Your Dick