Your penis today is probably not the same one you saw when you were younger. Because, like you, your penis is often changing, too.
That said, "there are no specific changes to the penis across the board over time," says Denise Asafu-Adjei, MD, director of male reproductive medicine and assistant professor of urology at Loyola Medicine in Chicago.
Video of the Day
Meaning: Your penis may undergo some changes, but they're not inevitable. And not everyone will have the same experience.
Here's what might happen and what you can do about it:
1. Your Erections May Not Be as Hard
"When you're younger, the penile tissues are in their best shape," Dr. Asafu-Adjei says. "They're elastic and produce full, firm erections."
That can change over time with age and lifestyle habits. Age you can't control, but lifestyle habits you can. Exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping blood cholesterol and blood pressure in a good range, limiting alcohol and avoiding smoking are all healthy habits that support hard erections.
Another factor? Research suggests that as you age, you may become less sexually active, notes March 2019 research in Sexual Medicine, with rates dropping from 94 percent of men in their 50s to 31 percent of men over age 80.
How sexually active you are can affect how your penis ages: "The penis is like a muscle — if you don't use it, you lose it," Dr. Asafu-Adjei says. "If there's a time period where you are not having optimal erections, that tissue can harden a bit and won't stretch as well as it could when you were younger."
2. Your Risk for Erectile Dysfunction Increases
Erectile dysfunction (ED), which is trouble getting or keeping an erection for sex, affects 30 million men, according to the American Urological Association. Age increases your risk of ED: As you're in your 40s, your chance of having ED is 40 percent, which increases by 10 percent per decade, according to February 2017 research in Translational Andrology and Urology.
In part, that's due to a higher risk of conditions that affect blood vessels needed for solid erections. Having diabetes increases your risk of erectile dysfunction by three-fold, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. In addition, having heart disease, high cholesterol or high blood pressure (all of which are more common as you age) is also linked to ED, per StatPearls.
What's more: Testosterone levels tend to go down over time, Dr. Asafu-Adjei says. Testosterone is a hormone that supports the production of sperm, your sex drive and your muscle and bone health, according to the Society for Endocrinology, and it plays an important role in erections.
Lower testosterone often means a lower sex drive and a reduced capacity to get and maintain an erection. The two combined may also lead you to have sex less often, which creates a cycle that promotes poor erections.
It's important to reduce the shame and stigma surrounding ED, Dr. Asafu-Adjei says: "ED is more common than we think. It's not a disease of old men. I see plenty of younger people with ED."
The condition is treatable, both with medication and healthy lifestyle habits, so talk to your doctor if it's an issue for you.
Sudden or new changes in your erections can also be a sign of heart disease. In that event, make an appointment with your doctor ASAP.
3. Sensation in Your Penis May Decrease
Feel-good sensations may start to wane, and it may take more time to become aroused as you get older. This is a possible — but not necessarily expected — change to your penis with age, Dr. Asafu-Adjei says.
Reduced sensations can happen, however, if you develop chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, which affects nerves and blood vessels all over your body, including your penis. People over age 45 are most at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC.
The good news? "A completely healthy person should not expect sensation in the penis to decrease over time," Dr. Asafu-Adjei says, so it's not inevitable.
4. Your Penis May Look Smaller
Over the last three decades, erect penis length increased by 24 percent, according to a February 2023 review and meta-analysis in The World Journal of Men's Health. (Why? Not a clue, say researchers.)
However, over that time, waistlines have grown larger, too, according to December 2018 research in National Health Statistics Reports. If you accumulate more belly fat with age, an expanding waist circumference can "hide" or "bury" your penis.
"This is something people don't fully grasp," Dr. Asafu-Adjei says, adding that patients are often surprised at the full length of their penis hiding under their belly.
If you feel that your penis has gotten smaller, it may be, in part, the reduced elasticity mentioned above.
However, if you have excess abdominal fat, healthy lifestyle measures — the things you hear about all the time, like eating a nutritious diet, limiting alcohol, exercising and decreasing sedentary time — can go a long way in reducing this visceral fat (which is dangerous for your heart and metabolic health, anyway).
"I see a great improvement in how people feel about themselves and how their penises look just by losing abdominal fat," Dr. Asafu-Adjei says.
You may have an unhealthy amount of belly fat if your waist size is greater than 40 inches, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
5. Your Penis May Curve
Your penis goes through a lot over the years. And that can lead to changes in the shape of the penis. Called Peyronie's disease, a curved penis happens when scar tissue forms under the skin of the penis, causing a new bend during an erection, which can also be painful, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
Few people are diagnosed with Peyronie's disease, though it may affect 1 in 10 people with penises, the Institute says. Your risk increases as you age.
"It's caused by injury to the penis, including certain sexual positions," Dr. Asafu-Adjei says.
See a doctor if you notice a new curve in your penis, especially if it's affecting your sexual activity or ability to urinate. Peyronie's disease is treatable with certain medications, therapies and, in more severe cases, surgery.
You're changing as you get older — and your penis is, too. While you may notice differences in your erections or the size and shape of your penis, there are a lot of things you can do to maintain a healthy penis throughout the years, including staying sexually active and living a heart-healthy life.
- Society for Endocrinology: "Testosterone."
- The World Journal of Men's Health: "Worldwide Temporal Trends in Penile Length: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis."
- Sexual Medicine: "Sexual Activity is Associated with Greater Enjoyment of Life in Older Adults."
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Type 2 Diabetes."
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Diabetes and Men."
- Urology Care Foundation: "What is Erectile Dysfunction?"
- Translational Andrology and Urology: "Aging related erectile dysfunction—potential mechanism to halt or delay its onset."
- StatPearls: "Erectile Dysfunction."
- National Health Statistics Reports: "Mean Body Weight, Height, Waist Circumference, and Body Mass Index Among Adults: United States, 1999–2000 Through 2015–2016."
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Penile Curvature (Peyronie's Disease)."
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.