Look down in your pants and see a shriveled penis? Don’t panic yet! There are some totally normal things that might cause completely benign testicle or penis shriveling or shrinking. In this article, we’ll discuss how to assess if your shriveled penis is cause for alarm or a sign of a long-term issue and how to address it.
What’s a Shriveled Penis?
People may have different ideas of what a shriveled penis is. Some people are picturing a penis and/or testicles that have retracted into the body cavity. Others are thinking of a penis that seems to have gotten a little shorter over time, especially with erection, or a penis that can’t get fully erect at all. Still others may be thinking of a penis that has unusual shriveled spots when erect.
We’ll address all these varieties of penis shrivel here, starting with benign causes and then moving on to potential medical issues. Penis size (especially when erect) is dramatically mediated by blood flow to the area, so many causes of penis shriveling are related to circulation.
Erections are also somewhat of a use-it-or-lose it proposition. In other words, having regular erections helps maintain erectile function. So anything that impedes your ability to have regular erections can negatively impact your erectile function.
Note: if you’re picturing a desiccated, corpse-like appendage, don’t worry—this is highly unlikely to happen to you unless you have end-stage renal disease, in which case your penis shriveling is among the least of your problems.
Normal Causes of a Shriveled Penis
These causes of the dreaded shriveled dick are actually totally normal and expected.
Are you wondering, “why do my testicles shrivel up in the cold?” Cold temperatures cause the penis and testicles to retract into the body as a protection mechanism, to maintain an appropriate temperature. Sperm production in particular is a very temperature-sensitive endeavor. This is totally normal and will resolve once you warm up!
Anxiety or Stress
When you’re anxious or stressed, your body releases adrenaline, which constricts blood flow. Constricted blood flow = your penis shrivels up! Once you relax, things will return to their usual state.
When you exert yourself, your body directs blood flow elsewhere, away from the penis and scrotum. You also release adrenaline. This can cause a temporarily shriveled penis. It will return to normal with a little time.
A little bit of penis shriveling and shrinking with age is to be expected, as the connective tissues of the penis become less elastic. Additionally, many men gain weight in the abdominal fat pad as they age, which can engulf the base of the penis and make it appear shorter. Losing weight from your abdominal area may help un-shrink your penis somewhat.
Potentially Worrisome Causes of a Shriveled Penis
When should you be worried when your penis shrivels up? Here are some potential causes of a shriveled dick that may require medical intervention, or at the very least some lifestyle changes.
Medication Side Effects
Some prescription medications, especially drugs that cause vasoconstriction (like Adderall), can cause temporary penis shriveling or shrinking. This is because the vasoconstrictive effects of the drug restricts blood flow to the penis, causing it to shrink or shrivel slightly.
The shrinking should go away when you discontinue the medication, but if it’s really bothering you, discuss switching up treatment options with your prescribing physician.
Steroids are known for causing your testicles to shrivel. This is because your body responds to the flood of testosterone-like substances in steroids by ceasing its own testosterone production. With nothing to do and nothing going on, testicles will shrivel up. Your testicles will gradually return to their normal state once steroid use is totally discontinued.
Many recreational substances both legal and illegal can cause a temporarily short or shriveled penis. Smoking, alcohol, and a variety of illegal drugs can all negatively impact erectile function in a big way. Again, these substances tend to restrict blood flow to the penis. If you have trouble getting and keeping erections, reduce or discontinue substance use.
Scar Tissue/Peyronie’s Disease
When scar tissue or plaque forms on one side of the penis as a result of trauma, it can lead to curved erections. The skin on the scarred side may appear wrinkled or shriveled when erect.
If the curve is extreme enough to cause pain with erection or intercourse, you may need treatment—commonly a botox injection at the plaque site.
Prostate surgery often leads to penile shriveling or shrinkage. Maintaining appropriate rehabilitative measures after surgery as directed by your physician can help prevent or minimize this shrinkage.
Trauma to the Pelvic Area
Trauma to the pelvic area can cause the penis to retract as a protective mechanism, giving the appearance of a shriveled penis. Pelvic trauma (especially to the perineal area) may also cause erectile difficulties.
Buried Penis Syndrome
In buried penis syndrome, a normal-sized penis becomes “buried” in the body, appearing much shorter than it is. Buried penis syndrome can occur in children or adults and has a variety of causes. How you treat it depends on the cause.
When Should I Be Worried About My Shriveled Penis?
The bottom line is that most cases of testicle or penis shriveling are normal and will either resolve on their own or are a natural part of aging. However, if you notice shriveling that doesn’t resolve, you’re experiencing pain, or you want to figure out how to improve erectile function as much as you can, see a doctor.