What a Man’s Penis Says About His Health

4 hints and insights from below the belt

From the superficial to the more serious, the appearance or performance of a man’s penis can say a lot about what’s going on in his mind and body.

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Here are four signs that warrant talking to a doctor.

1. It’s time to get his heart health checked

Erectile dysfunction — the inability to get or maintain an erection — is common. It has several possible causes, many of which are no big deal. But if your partner consistently has trouble getting or keeping it up, it might signal heart disease.

“Over half of patients who have coronary bypass surgery have erectile dysfunction,” says urologist Ryan Berglund, MD. “And almost two-thirds of patients that have a heart attack have erectile dysfunction.”

He concludes, “Erectile dysfunction, particularly in a young man, should be regarded as a warning sign for heart disease.”

2. A weak erection can do damage

Does your partner’s penis have a noticeable bend or curve? He may have Peyronie’s disease, a disorder in which scar tissue within the penis causes a curvature. 

“We consider a curve greater than 30 degrees to be a severe curvature,” Dr. Berglund says. “It can interfere with a man’s ability to have intercourse.”

If your partner’s erection isn’t as hard as it could be, he should get the problem checked out. In addition to the possible implications for his heart health, he could damage his penis. Men who have intercourse with a more flaccid erection are more likely to go on to develop Peyronie’s disease.

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3. Poor performance can signal mental health issues

“The mind plays a very large role in the function of the penis,” Dr. Berglund says.

If your partner is having trouble with his erections and his doctor has ruled out physical causes, there may be a psychological issue at play.

Depression, anxiety and stress can all make it difficult for men to perform sexually, as can relationship issues.

Unfortunately, sometimes treatments for mental health concerns can make matters worse. Antidepressants may lower a man’s sex drive and make it difficult to maintain an erection and reach orgasm, Dr. Berglund says.

Drug and alcohol use can also prompt performance difficulties.

4. Painful lumps, bumps or sores may spell trouble

“Everybody has lumps and bumps,” Dr. Berglund says. Blood vessels, pimples and pearly penile papules (small, pearl-like bumps) are just a few of the things you might notice on your partner’s penis. In most cases, they’re nothing to worry about.

But how can you tell if there’s something more serious going on?

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If the bump is painful or there’s an open or weeping sore, guys should get it checked out ASAP. It may be a sexually transmitted infection, such as herpes.

He might also want to head to the doctor for bumps that don’t hurt. Genital warts, syphilis or molluscum contagiosum (a viral skin infection) may also need treatment.

The good news? If your partner does find something suspicious on his penis, the odds are low that it’s cancer, especially if he’s circumcised.

“The rate of penile cancer in the United States is actually pretty low,” Dr. Berglund says — about 1 in 100,000 men per year.

What should you do if you notice something concerning about your partner’s penis? Have a chat, but be sensitive. Approach your partner gently, and arm yourself with information. No man wants to hear that there’s something wrong with his penis, but cluing him in could help him take better care of his overall health.

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