Sexual Health Q&A

Q&A
Male Sexual Health Sexual Dysfunction
Does a man’s penis change as he gets older?

Yes. As men age, they usually notice that their penis changes in appearance and function.

When men reach their 40s, their testosterone levels naturally start to decline. This is a normal part of aging, but it can affect the genitals. Also, many older men develop other health conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, that can damage blood vessels and affect blood flow to the penis.

Some of the visual changes that may occur include the following:

Change in color. If there is less blood flowing into the penis, it might become a lighter pink.

Change in size. Lower testosterone levels and reduced blood flow can cause the penis to gradually shrink. This is a great concern for many men, but for many partners, penis size is not important.  In some cases, the penis looks smaller than it really is. This can happen when a man has put on some weight. The shaft of the penis can partially “hide” in flaps of abdominal fat.

Some men also find that their testicles become smaller and start to sag. They may lose some of their pubic hair as well.

In addition, a man might find that his penis starts to curve. This condition is called Peyronie’s disease, and it can be quite painful. Sometimes, the curve is severe enough to make intercourse difficult or impossible. Fortunately, there are treatment options, and men who discover a curve in their penis should talk to their doctor.

Men may notice sexual changes, too.

During sex, it might take an older man more time and more sexual stimulation to become aroused, get an erection, and ejaculate. For many couples, this extra time isn’t an issue. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to enjoy more intimacy and try different types of sexual activities.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) becomes more common as men get older, especially if they have diabetes or heart disease. There are several therapies available for ED, so men are encouraged to discuss any erection problems with their doctor.

Urinary symptoms can also occur. Older men are at higher risk for an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia – BPH), in which prostate tissue expands inward and squeezes the urethra, making it more difficult to urinate. Some men with BPH need to use the bathroom more often. BPH can be treated, so men who have trouble urinating should see their urologist.

Discussing penis health with a doctor is always important, but there are steps men can take to slow down some of these changes. For example, following a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help a man keep his weight under control. It can also lower his risk for diabetes and heart disease, two factors that often contribute to erectile dysfunction.

Talking to a partner is another step. A man may feel self-conscious about his aging body, feeling that he is not quite the man he used to be. His partner can reassure him, help him relax, and offer suggestions for more satisfying intimacy.

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