The penis, such a curious organ. And yes, to answer a question Elaine Benes so memorably asked, it does shrink. And not just after a dip in the pool. It shrinks as you age.
Penises change over time, and penis shrinkage is real: Erections naturally get smaller and less firm as one ages, urologists confirm. While there’s nothing men can do to stop the penis from shrinking altogether, there’s a hell of a lot they can do to make penis shrinkage worse.
“The penis can lose about a centimeter of length from your rock-solid thirties to when you’re in your about-to-retire sixties,” Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt, a Florida-based urologist, tells Fatherly. “The difference, honestly, is minute, and many men may not even notice the difference.”
Penises are made up of three tubes, two of which are vascular and depend on blood flow to function and become erect. (The third is for funneling out urine.) As men age, the penis loses collagen and elasticity as a result of more cells aging and dying off, like any other part of the body. All of this affects blood flow throughout the body, including to the penis, making erections smaller and less pronounced than they used to be. Men’s bodies also produce less testosterone with age, and testicles produce less sperm, which makes them appear smaller as well, giving off the appearance that the penis might be shrinking.
But the penis itself isn’t exactly shrinking, explains Dr. David Shusterman, urologist and founder of NY Urology. “Over the years, the balloon can lose air, but the actual size and coating of the balloon itself does not change,” Shusterman says. “The same is with the penis. They get less full because the veins that are meant to make it bigger are aging.”
In certain cases, where there is a hormonal imbalance caused by diseases such as prostate cancer, penises can “inflate” with the help of hormonal therapy. Shock therapy to unclog veins and open up blood vessels is another treatment scientists are exploring to treat erectile dysfunction as well as age-related shrinkage, though it’s not FDA-approved. Both experts agree, however, that the most effective way men can limit penis shrinkage over time is by making healthy lifestyle choices when it comes to diet, exercise, limiting alcohol consumption, and not smoking.
“The reason many men have a larger loss of size over time is usually due to an enlarging belly. The more fat you have in your belly, the less visible your penis,” Brahmbhatt adds. “Best tip to give men to avoid loss of a ton of visible penis is to stay in shape and avoid the belly fat.”
The other thing men can do is to remember that a growing body of research affirms that size does not matter to women as much as men think it does, especially when it comes to longterm partner selection. If size didn’t matter in your thirties it’s probably not going to become an issue when several decades into a happy marriage. As long as you’re healthy, your penis will probably be fine.
“The first step being to allow yourself a kinder and more understanding approach,” Shusterman recommends. “It has nothing to do with your manhood, your size, or your drive.”
As he says, “You are still the same balloon you were born as.”