Now, instead of thinking about sex, let’s first focus on what is seemingly more important, and that is about maintaining health between your legs – i.e., penis health. Although it is called the "love muscle," the penis does not contain any muscles that is why you cannot move it very much when it is erect. The NHS Choices website has an interesting way to visualize what the penis is and how it works. It says that the penis is like a sponge that fills with blood when a man is sexually excited. Blood builds up inside two cylinder shaped chambers, causing the penis to swell and stiffen. The swelling blocks off the veins that normally take blood away from the penis. As an erection disappears, the arteries in the two chambers narrow again, allowing blood to drain away from the penis.
But penis health goes beyond man’s ability to get and keep an erection, ejaculate and reproduce. There are health issues affecting the penis that can impact on other areas of a man’s life causing stress or relationship problems as well as harming his self-confidence.
Protect Penis Health
The Mayo Clinic website outlines various factors, conditions and disease affecting penis health, including:
Sexual behaviors. Unprotected sex can lead to sexually transmitted infections like genital warts, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and genital herpes. The common signs and symptoms may include painful urination, penis discharge, and sores or blisters on the penis or in the genital area. Aggressive or acrobatic sex or masturbation may cause the penis to be bent suddenly or forcefully while erect and the trauma may lead to penis fracture, although this is very rare. On the other hand, piercing or having the flesh of the penis punctured for purpose of putting a piece of jewelry can cause skin infections and prolonged erections.
Physical conditions. Restricted blood flow caused by diabetes and atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries can cause erectile dysfunction. Hormone imbalances, such as testosterone deficiency or too much of the hormone prolactin, can also cause erectile dysfunction. Neurological conditions. Stroke, spinal cord and back injuries, multiple sclerosis and dementia can affect the transfer of nerve impulses from the brain to the penis, causing erectile dysfunction.
Psychological problems. Depression can cause a loss of libido. Likewise, if a man has experienced an erection problem, he may be concerned that it will happen again and develop anxiety or depression. This can compound the problem and lead to impotence. Trauma — such as child abuse, relationship difficulties and body image issues — and guilt can lead to pain associated with sex.
Getting older. Testosterone levels decline normally as a man ages. This may lead to a decrease in sexual interest, a need for more stimulation to achieve and maintain an erection, a less forceful ejaculation and a need for more time before he can achieve another erection after ejaculation.
Medications and treatments. Certain medications and treatments affect penis health. For example, prolonged use of antibiotics increases the risk of a yeast infection which may cause a reddish rash and white patches on the penis. Surgical removal of the prostate gland (radical prostatectomy) and surrounding tissue as treatment for prostate cancer may cause urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
Smoking and drinking. Smoking and excessive alcohol drinking double the risk of erectile dysfunction.
Some signs or symptoms to watch out in your penis are: dark bruising on the penis; warts, bumps, lesions or a rash on the penis or in the genital area that may or may not itch; a severely bent penis or curvature that causes pain or interferes with sexual activity; changes in the way you ejaculate; bleeding during urination or ejaculation; a burning sensation when urinating; discharge from the penis; and severe pain following trauma to the penis.
Then there is the problem with the foreskin for uncircumcised men. A condition known as phimosis occurs when the foreskin cannot be retracted from the penis head. Paraphimosis occurs when the foreskin cannot be returned to its normal position after being retracted.
Other diseases and conditions include: inflammation of the head of the penis (balanitis) may cause pain and a foul discharge; Peyronie's disease, a chronic condition that involves the development of abnormal scar tissue in tissues inside the penis, may result in bent or painful erections; and penis cancer, which is a rare possibility, may begin as a blister on the foreskin, head or shaft of the penis and then become a wart-like growth that discharges watery pus.
Routinely examining your penis gives you greater awareness of the condition of your penis and help you detect changes when they occur. Do not panic if you notice something unusual. Be man enough to go see a doctor. Regular checkups can also help ensure that problems affecting your penis are diagnosed as soon as possible.
Promote Penis Health
In this new age when men are maintaining their confidence and masculinity and at the same time becoming stylish, compassionate and unafraid of expressing romance and sensuality, what was supposed to be a simple personal hygiene has been transformed to genital grooming. This means not only washing of the genital area with soap and water, but also keeping the genitals hairless by shaving or waxing.
The penis is a sensitive organ and simple washing with water and a mild soap is more than satisfactory. Scrubbing it vigorously is not necessary. Uncircumcised men should pull the foreskin back and wash the head of the exposed penis. Remember, both infrequent and too-frequent washing have been associated with balanitis. The genital area should also be kept dry.
Keeping genitals hairless may have some benefits erotically, but there are some drawbacks physically. Both shaving and waxing can cause irritation or folliculitis, and can spread viral infections, such as genital herpes. Meanwhile, bacterial infections, such as staphylococcus aureus, have been linked to the use of razors, more specifically, the sharing of razors among sports participants.
Aside from personal hygiene, some ways to protect penis health as well as your overall health, are:
• Be sexually responsible. Maintain a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is free of sexually transmitted infections or use condoms.
• Get vaccinated. Consider the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to help prevent genital warts, which is now available for men aged 9 to 26 years old.
• Know your medications. Discuss medication use and possible side effects with your doctor.
• Pay attention to your mental health. Seek treatment for depression and other mental health conditions.
• Stay physically active. Daily moderate physical activity can significantly reduce your risk of erectile dysfunction.
• Stop smoking. If you smoke, takethe first step and decide to quit, then ask your doctor for help.
• Limit the amount of alcohol you drink and do not use illegal drugs. If you are under the influence, you are more likely to take sexual risks.
• Regular use. Frequent sex or sexual activity may help you maintain erectile function.
Are you still thinking about sex now, guys?!? ---Article and photo were published in Department of Health Philippines' HEALTHbeat Magazine.