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Penis Enlargement: Does It Work?

Every guy knows pumps, pills, exercises, and surgery won't build bigger penises -- Or do they?

By R. Morgan Griffin
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Don't deny it. Ever since you first saw those penis enlargement ads in the back pages of a porn magazine years ago -- the pictures of sinister-looking devices, the big letters screaming "Add Inches to Your Penis!" -- you've always wondered: Could I be bigger?

"Guys ask me about it all the time," says Michael O'Leary, MD, a urologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "They say they'll do anything to have a bigger penis." So is there anything they can do?

Not really. "It's pretty much bunk," O'Leary says wearily. After all, if simple, effective penis enlargement were possible, every other guy in America would be a foot long.

Yet common sense isn't enough to stop some of us. And thanks to our culture's restless drive for self-improvement, information about penis enlargement is everywhere. Liberated from the classifieds of behind-the-counter smut, penis enlargement pills are hawked on TV. Without even requesting it, you might have ads conveniently delivered to your email inbox every day. More than 10,000 men in the U.S. -- probably many more -- have gone on the operating table to get highly controversial penis enlargement surgery.

But don't open your wallet and unbuckle your pants yet. We've explored the sordid world of penis enlargement so you don't have to.

Should my penis be bigger?

First, even if you think you're small, odds are that your penis is a normal size. The average erect penis is four to six inches long, with a circumference of four to six inches. There's more variation in the size of flaccid penises. But that just means that a guy who looks well hung in the locker room isn't likely to get much bigger when erect; conversely, a guy who looks small will grow a lot.

Second, if you insist that you're small -- even when the ruler says you're not, you may earn yourself a psychiatric diagnosis: penile dysmorphic disorder. It's similar to the perceptual distortion of anorexics who still think they're fat no matter how stick thin they get. According to one study, the majority of men who get penis enlargement surgery have this condition. They are also the least satisfied with the results.

"Men who have a normal penile length but are convinced they're small might benefit from seeing a psychiatrist instead of a surgeon," says Karen Elizabeth Boyle, MD, assistant professor of urology and director of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Pumps and pills, horny goat weed, and other penis enlargement nonsense

But enough of the sensible expert advice. Here is a rundown of your options if you are still looking for a larger penis.

  • The vacuum pump. This is the classic of the penis enlargement device genre. You stick your penis into a cylinder attached to a pump that sucks out the air. The resulting vacuum draws extra blood into your penis, making it erect and a little bigger. You then clamp off the penis with a tight ring -- like a tourniquet -- to keep the blood from escaping back into your body.

    Penis pumps do have a real medical use: They help men with erectile dysfunction. But the pump has no lasting effect on the size of your penis. You will deflate to normal size once you remove the ring.

    Risks include temporary impotence, blisters, bruises, ruptured blood vessels, and discolored and thickened skin. The clamping should not be done for longer than 20 to 30 minutes at most since it will eventually cause tissue damage.


  • Exercises, weights, and devices. First, know this: You can't bulk up your penis with exercises, as you can your biceps. It is not a muscle. However, some devices and types of stimulation are purported to stretch the skin and lengthen the penis itself.

    One popular example is "jelqing," a regimen of tugging or "milking" exercises. Naturally, it has an "ancient" (which means "bogus") pedigree: Web sites tell us it's an old Arabian technique passed down from well-hung father to son. The details are veiled behind web pages demanding your credit card, but jelqing exercises generally involve a lot of work -- 30 to 60 minutes of firm yanking most days of the week. The real trick is that you are supposed to do this without your penis getting erect. So you had better have a lot of self-discipline, a lot of free time, and a door with a lock.

    Other penis enlargement options include devices that you clamp onto your penis to stretch it -- sometimes for as long as eight hours a day -- with tension or weights. "A manufacturer sent me one," says O'Leary. "It looks like a medieval implement of torture.

    Will any of this work? Boyle says no. O'Leary -- very cautiously -- says it might be possible to stretch the skin of the penis. However, this would have no effect on the size of your erection. It would also require superhuman dedication. Risks include tearing of the tissue, burst blood vessels, and other problems. O'Leary recently saw a patient who was hanging heavy weights off his erect penis and fractured it, snapping the tissue. The result was terrible pain and surgery.


  • Pills, supplements, and creams. Hogwash. Every last one of them. Most are mixtures of herbs like yohimbe (the "herbal Viagra"), ginseng, and, of course, horny goat weed. They have never been shown to have any effect on penis size. Penis Enlargement Surgery Unlike most enlargement schemes, surgery can work. Even critics concede that. However, there are risks, and the results may be less impressive than you hope. One 2006 study published in European Urology found that the average length gain is less than one inch. Mark P. Solomon, MD, a plastic surgeon outside Philadelphia, agrees that the results are modest but says they are usually a bit better than that.

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