With around 4,000 nerve endings, the penis is usually a sensitive organ. If you do not experience (or feel significantly less) sensation you may be dealing with penile numbness or penis insensitivity.
There are many ways to deal with the symptoms. The treatment options will largely depend on what is causing the condition. The best advice will be to consult your physician for a proper diagnosis of your specific condition.
- Penile numbness may be caused by drugs, hormonal imbalances, physical injury, psychological stress, and underlying medical conditions.
- Treatment options may vary from adjusting lifestyle, changing medicine, and getting therapy among others.
- Strenuous physical activities, especially those involving the genital area, were one of the most common causes of penile numbness.
- For example, up to 80% of cyclists report experiencing symptoms of insensitivity around the genital area. However, some reports contest that switching to an appropriate saddle fixes this.
Symptoms of penile numbness
- Loss of sensation in the penis or genital area. (testicles, scrotum, perineum)
- A tingling or prickling sensation in the penis. Also referred to as “pins and needles”.
- Chilling or burning sensation
- Bruising on the penile area
Causes of penile numbness
While penile insensitivity is more common to occur in older men, this does not mean that the condition is inevitable for all aging men (Rowland, 1998). The condition may simply be caused by other factors such as physical trauma, testosterone imbalances, psychological issues, pre-existing medical conditions, or adverse medicinal effects.
Physical trauma to the penis
The penis is a highly sensitive organ with many nerve endings and blood vessels. Injury resulting from a sharp blow or force may damage these tissues and cause penile numbness. However, long strenuous activity exerting forces on the genital area may also aggravate the condition.
One of the most common causes of penile nerve damage is prolonged cycling rides. Extended sessions on a bicycle seat compress nerves and blood vessels in the genital area. One study found that around 50-80% of cyclists report symptoms of penile numbness. This was dependent on the frequency and duration of the rides. A study suggested adjusting the rider’s position may help alleviate the problem. Using specifically designed bicycle seats such as “no-nose” saddles can help achieve the proper bike fit.
There are also cases where surgical procedures may damage the pelvic or spinal nerves and blood tissues. For example, certain procedures for prostate cancer may cause this problem.
As the primary male hormone, maintaining the correct level of testosterone is important for sexual health. Some studies hypothesize that a low level of testosterone may cause the penis to be less responsive to stimulation. However, this is still inconclusive and there is little evidence to support that the hormone can directly affect penile sensation and erections.
Psychological issues are a major stressor in penile numbness. Mental problems create a negative feedback loop that can aggravate symptoms of penile insensitivity among other problems.
Clinical depression, stress, and anxiety can directly interfere with sexual drive. They affect your ability to orgasm, your desire for sex, and overall sexual health. But the most common medicine for these conditions uses antidepressants which may also have adverse effects on sex life. This may have the unintended result of causing insecurity from poor sexual performance that may trigger more psychological stress.
Pre-existing medical conditions
Other health conditions that have an impact on penile nerves and tissues may present as penile numbness. Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and prostate problems are a few of the most familiar comorbidities. A lesser-known condition is Peyronie’s disease or penile curvature. Misplaced scar tissue in the penis may decrease sensitivity or cause numbness in specific areas in the penis.
Medicinal side effects
Some chemicals present in medicine used to treat other conditions may have adverse effects leading to symptoms of penile numbness.
For instance, mood-changing chemicals in antidepressants may affect sexual arousal. Antidepressants work by targeting neurotransmitters in the brain that also control the libido. This may trigger irregularities in sex drive.
A certain drug for Parkinson’s disease has also been reported to cause penile numbness. Similar to antidepressants, selegiline hydrochloride (Eldepryl) affects dopamine levels and may also affect the brain’s reward system essential for sexual arousal.
Erectile dysfunction medicine may also aggravate penile numbness. These medicines help improve erections but contain Phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitors that have been found to decrease sensation in the penis. This intended side effect is used to help with premature ejaculation.
If you are taking medication and display symptoms of penile numbness, consult your doctor if you have any suspicions.
Treating penile numbness
The treatment options for dealing with penile numbness will vary depending on the cause. This will primarily fall into these three categories: injury, lifestyle, and medical conditions.
Injury resulting from a blow or force to the groin may damage blood vessels in the penile area causing insensitivity.
Oftentimes, minor injuries will heal over time. Bruising and decreased sensitivity can be treated with a cold compress and managing pain with medicine until sensation returns.
But if the pain is severe or sensation does not return for an extended period, consult a physician as soon as possible.
A healthy diet and proper exercise will go a long way in dealing with numbness. This will hopefully fix the issue on the off chance that it was a nutritional imbalance. Exercise will help alleviate problems resulting from a sedentary lifestyle. This isolates your problem and ensures that the condition is not caused by any underlying medical condition.
You may also try stretching or taking breaks in between long periods of seated activity. Limiting alcohol intake and avoiding smoking may also help.
And if you are a cyclist and you suspect that saddle time is causing your problem, try to adjust your position or get specifically-designed saddles to decrease pressure.
One of the most common medical causes of penile numbness is hormonal imbalance. You might be diagnosed with low testosterone levels. Restoring your hormonal balance with therapy may improve sensation as well as reviving libido and desire.
Testosterone therapy (TT) may be administered by:
|Mode of delivery||Duration|
|Transdermal||Uses applicants on skin such as gels, creams, lotions, liquids, and skin patches||Four days|
|Injections||Medicine is injected into the skin or muscle.||Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly|
|Oral||A patch is placed inside the mouth or buccal area|
|Intranasal||Medicine is delivered inside the nostril by a nasal pump||Three times daily|
|Surgery||Pellets are implanted into the fatty tissue underneath skin||Three to six months|
Medicinal side effects
If you suspect that your penile numbness is caused by other drugs or conditions, consult your doctor. They may give you medicinal alternatives or prescribe lower dosages.
Furthermore, penile numbness may be a symptom of another condition such as diabetes or MS. It is important to diagnose such conditions as soon as possible to ensure your overall health.
If you suspect psychological factors, book a counselling session with a therapist to properly diagnose your condition and proceed with the corresponding treatment.
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On the other hand, a person who experiences penile hypersensitivity may find that their sexual performance is limited. This often manifests as the inability to control ejaculation during sex (premature ejaculation).
The International Society of Sexual Medicine (ISSM) defines it as:
- Ejaculating within 1 minute of vaginal penetration
- The inability to delay ejaculation during all or nearly all vaginal penetrations
- Negative psychosocial effects such as frustration and avoiding sexual intimacy
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