Don’t be a dick. When it comes to the health of your penis, it’s important to be knowledgeable about taking care of your frank and beans. It’s true, besides a little man grooming, your penis is a pretty low maintenance organ. But because your package doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, we asked Urologist, Dr. Ari Bergman all those sensitive questions you might not have the balls to ask about protecting the family jewels. Because after all, membership has its privileges.
What is the number one reason guys visit their Urologist?
Tragically, most of the reasons that guys see a urologist has nothing to do with his penis. More commonly, men will see a urologist for issues related to their prostate. The prostate sits between the bladder and penis, and when you urinate, you send your urine through a hole in the center of the prostate. Think of it like a doughnut, and the urine passes through the doughnut hole. As we age, men’s ears, noses, and prostates continue to grow. That puts pressure on the doughnut hole, making it harder for the bladder to push the urine out past the prostate. The bladder doesn’t like this and gets cranky. A cranky bladder can act out by making a man urinate more frequently or torture you with urgency. Eventually, if the prostate gets too tight, the bladder won’t be able to compensate and will fail to empty. Unfortunately, there aren’t good ways to prevent this prostate enlargement. It’s just genetics and bad luck.
What’s the best way to care for your penis? What kinds of screenings or warning signs should men be looking out for?
The penis is fairly low maintenance under most conditions. The best advice is to practice safe sex because most penis problems in young men come from sexually transmitted diseases. Gonorrhea or chlamydia can cause a painful discharge to spurt out of your penis. And it makes it very painful to urinate. Even after the infection is treated and resolves, it can scar tissue in the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries the urine through and out of the penis. Scar tissue in the urethra causes narrowing, which can, in turn, cause a man to spray his urine in all directions. You don’t want that. Another very common STD is HPV, which is a virus that can cause genital warts and penile cancer. The warts look like little fleshy cauliflower buds. They don’t hurt, but they are ugly and can scare away potential playmates. Penile cancer looks like an ulcer or rash but doesn’t heal. Penile cancer is extremely rare, however. The bad news is that even condoms don’t prevent all HPV transmission, though they definitely reduce the risk. The good news is that there is a vaccine that protects again several strains of HPV that cause warts and cancer.
Routine hygiene is important for the penis, especially for men who are not circumcised. The foreskin should be pulled back to expose the head of the penis, any schmutz that has build up under there. There’s no need to be aggressive or use anything stronger than soap. Just keep your junk clean. Make sure to pull the foreskin back over the head of the penis. If the foreskin is a little tight, it can get stuck and constrict the blood supply to the penis if you leave it retracted for too long. Penises don’t do well without blood flow. If it the foreskin is very tight, it’s best to see a urologist before retracting the foreskin let it gets stuck. Penis hygiene is important in uncircumcised men for penile cancer prevention. As I said, penile cancer is very rare but seen mostly in uncircumcised men with poor hygiene. And, you really can’t expect anyone else to come near a dirty dick. Can I say that?
Can you keep your penis healthy by eating certain foods? Or doing certain exercises?
There aren’t particular foods or exercises that specifically help with penile health. However, an overall healthy lifestyle can help prevent penis problems from developing. Erectile dysfunction, better known as impotence or “can’t get it up,” is usually caused by cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The penis is a sponge, and an erection is simply blood rushing in and filling the sponge. The blood is prevented from draining out, and the penis gets hard from the pressure. Diabetes or cardiovascular disease can cause the arteries to narrow and decrease the blood flow to the penis sponges. Or, these diseases can affect the mechanism that keeps the blood in the penis during an erection. The blood flows in but then flows out. Finally, diabetes can damage nerves all over the body, including those that transmit a signal to the penis to initiate an erection. The penis doesn’t get the message. The best way to reduce your risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease is to be healthy and do the things well all know we should do; eat a diet of mostly vegetables and lean proteins and get regular exercise several times a week if not every day. We all know this, but it can be hard to get motivated to follow through. Well, if preventing softies isn’t good incentive, I don’t know what is.
Is it true that most vasectomies are scheduled during March Madness? What is the recovery time really like?
Ha! I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know if that statistic is true. I will have to look into it. I do have some fun facts about vasectomies, though. My favorite is that in the eighties, Thailand celebrated their king’s birthday with vasectomy parties. Nearly 900 hundred men were given free, royally funded vasectomies to celebrate the king’s 58th birthday. “Happy birthday to me! Go have some fun.”
Anyway, vasectomies are relatively small procedures and are fairly well tolerated. The vas deferens is a tube that carries the sperm from the testicle up out of the scrotum, through the groin, and eventually into the urethra where they are ejaculated into or at their intended target. By making a very small incision in the scrotum above the testicle, it’s possible to grab the vas and sever it. The incision is so small that it doesn’t require general anesthesia; an injection of numbing medicine in the skin is enough to prevent pain in the scrotum. I often hear my patients describe abdominal pain, similar to what you feel in your belly when you get kicked in the balls. Any man will know what I mean. I haven’t found a way to prevent that, but it doesn’t last long and isn’t severe. The recovery time varies but is usually only a few days at most. There is usually significant swelling afterward, so I recommend getting some extra tight underwear, something from a sporting goods store, to help reduce the swelling. Heat packs or cold packs can be helpful. Immediately after the vasectomy, a man is still fertile; he has ammunition in the chamber that he has to clear. It takes about 15 to 20 ejaculations to unload any remaining sperm. After eight weeks, the man gives a semen sample for analysis to ensure that he is now shooting blanks.
Can you break your penis?
Oh boy, yes you can. It’s called a fractured penis. The sponges that I described earlier are called corpora cavernosa. The blood sponge is surrounded by an outer lining which is very hard and strong, to endure the high pressures generated by the erection and by sex. A fracture happens when the penis is erect and torqued or bent with a lot of force. This causes that outer lining to crack. It almost always happens with rough sex, and it is usually not with the primary partner. Several times during my residency we had to break up fights in the recovery room because both the wife and the girlfriend met at the patient’s bedside.