Sexual health GP Dr Anand Patel reveals all
Many men are too embarrassed to seek professional help if they think there’s something wrong with their penis. But they could be putting their health at risk. We spoke to sexual health GP Dr Anand Patel about the most common complaints down below and what you need to do about them if they happen to you.
1. Pearly penile papules
Tiny white or pink shiny lumps usually found on the head of the penis. But, nothing to be too concerned about, says Anand Patel, a Brighton-based GP specialising in sexual problems in men and women of all ages. They tend to look worse than they are.
“Nothing to worry about. We leave them alone.”
2. Jock rash
An itchy, scaly collection of red spots, often found in the thigh creases over the scrotum, and which can sometimes extend over the anal margin. Causes tend to be fungal infection and eczema.
“Treatment with an antifungal cream often helps; as does stopping using shower gels, and washing with aqueous cream instead to form a protective barrier. This is particularly applicable to sweatier or sporty men.”
3. Peyronie’s disease
More commonly known as a bent penis, Peyronie’s disease is diagnosable by a lump or plaque on the inside of the bend on the penile shaft. It can take up to a year to stabilise before treatment is attempted, as the condition can be exacerbated if attended to too early on.
“Most non-surgical treatments aren’t massively effective apart from shockwave therapy. Cutting out the plaque can restore the straightness, but can end up with loss of length, which isn’t ideal. Most men just adapt the way they have sex.”
“It’s getting more common in young men due to more aggressive sex and the vogue for pulling the penis all the way out and then ramming it back in. If your aim isn’t great, the juddering or bending of the penis can cause small tears in the outer layers of the penis, causing these scar plaques to form.”
4. Penile cancer
While relatively uncommon (according to the NHS, 550 men in the UK are diagnosed each year), cancer of the penis can be serious, says Patel, as associated ulcers or nodules on the penis – typically the head – don’t always heal quickly.
“Get any ulcer that doesn’t heal checked out, pronto. If it’s a painless ulcer, it could also be a sign of syphilis.”
5. Scrotal lumps
While most probably a cyst if discovered on the tubes, if found on the testicle – especially when firm – lumps necessitate a trip to your GP post haste.
“Lumps inside the scrotum could be a sign of testicular cancer. It might be one of the most treatable cancers, but it’s always best caught early.”
6. Penile discharge
When the penis doesn’t discharge as normal, and is, instead, accompanied by pain or burning during urination – as well as a need to urinate frequently. It is often the sign of an STI, says Patel.
“If you’re leaking goo, it needs checking. Gonorrhoea is on the rise.”
Could point to herpes, especially if painful.
“Get it checked. Unfortunately herpes is for life and can reactivate at any time. But there are antiviral medications that can stop it in its tracks if you start early enough. So see your doctor.”
Penile warts are often “cauliflowery”, says Patel, which can gather in groups. Genital warts remains one of the most prevalent STIs in the UK, especially among younger people.
“And it’s one you can pass on with ease, as well as being related to the viruses that cause cervical cancer. You can use a cream to get rid of them, but larger groups may need to be frozen off.”
9. Erection problems
Erectile dysfunction (ED) rates are creeping up, and are not just limited to older men either. According to 2014 study by the Journal of Sexual Medicine, one out of every four new ED complaints were from men under 40.
“Being unable to keep your penis hard can be caused by lots of things from performance anxiety or porn addiction, to blood flow problems – which can be a warning sign of diabetes or heart disease.”
“If it keeps happening, see your doctor. If they don’t take you seriously, find one who will.”
A condition in which the foreskin is too tight to be retracted over the head of the penis, making urinating, washing, masturbating and sex especially tricky.
Phimosis can occur as a result of repeated small tears, or an underlying scarring condition.
“Worse than an annoying poloneck. The definitive treatment is circumcision to expose the head; however there are sometimes other options, depending on how bad it is. Up to the age of nine, it can be normal not to be able to pull back the foreskin.”