Published On: Wed, Nov 29th, 2023

Penis Enlargement: Does It Work?

Do you want a bigger penis? In one large survey a few years ago, about 45% of men said they did. And you can buy plenty of over-the-counter and even medical treatments that promise a larger penis. But do any of them really work?

Some of the things men use to try to increase penis size include:

  • Vacuum penis pumps
  • Penis weights
  • Penis stretching exercises, called jelqing
  • Supplements
  • Creams
  • Surgery

The truth is that these treatments tend to have modest, if any, results, experts say. And most don’t do anything at all to increase penis size.

But some techniques, including weight loss, may improve your penis’s appearance or your confidence in bed, says Petar Bajic, MD, a urologist and head of the Men’s Health Center in the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

How can you figure out what might help and what’s a sham? Talk to your doctor before you try any penis enlargement device or treatment.

“Many men still feel uncomfortable talking to their doctor about this issue, but they should seek advice from someone experienced in this area,” Bajic says. “People will do all sorts of things to try to make their penis larger.”

Most likely, your penis isn’t really too small, experts say.

Men who want larger penises may have a poor body image, low self-esteem, or even a condition called body dysmorphia, says Michael O’Leary, MD, a professor of urologic surgery at Harvard Medical School and a urologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“They’re basically just not happy with their body,” he says. “I have also operated on men whose partners told them their penis wasn’t large enough.”

People often believe myths about the “average” or “normal” length of a penis.

“Many men don’t have a realistic idea of what a normal size penis is, and we live in a society where pornography is pervasive. Some people believe that it’s normal to have a 12-inch penis,” says O’Leary. “The average erect penis is between 5 and 6 inches long, and flaccid (not erect), between 4 and 5 inches long.”

Some men may think they need a larger penis to satisfy their partners, but that’s likely not the case. About 85% of women in an internet survey of 52,000 heterosexual people said they were satisfied by the size of their partner’s penis.

When men see Bajic to discuss penis enlargement options, he starts the discussion by making clear what “normal” means.

“Societal perceptions of what is a smaller-than-normal penis aren’t true,” he says. “There are a wide variety of factors that may drive some men to feel that their genitalia just doesn’t look as it should, including what they see in popular culture.”

Bajic notes that satisfying hetero sex, for most women, “doesn’t begin with male penetration and end with male orgasm. Sometimes, through talking it out, many men that I treat realize that they have other body image issues and that their expectations about penis size are out of line,” he says.

A few men do have medical conditions that result in a smaller-than-average penis:

Micropenis. About 6 in 1,000 men have a micropenis, or a penis that’s less than 2.8 inches long when stretched. This can happen when a male baby doesn’t get enough testosterone, the male sex hormone, before birth.

Peyronie’s disease. This condition causes scar tissue buildup on the penis, causing it to bend and, in some men, shorten. Men with Peyronie’s disease may have trouble getting an erection, but there are treatments that can help.

Some surgical techniques change the appearance of your penis. That includes a procedure, recently approved by the FDA, called the pre-formed penile silicone block (Himplant, formerly called Penuma).

It’s not available everywhere yet, says O’Leary, who has done the surgery and says he’s been happy with the results. It’s a cosmetic procedure, so it isn’t covered by medical insurance, he says.

“It is a silicone implant, a silicone sleeve about two-thirds the length of the penis, which is implanted under the skin to make the penis thicker,” he says. But studies show there’s not as much impact on penis length.

You get this operation under general anesthesia in a hospital.

“This surgery must be carefully controlled and should only be done by a urologist who has familiarity with the penile anatomy and the surgery itself, and who has the background and experience necessary to perform it,” O’Leary says.

In one study of 400 men who had this surgery, penis width improved by as much as 56%. Men reported that they were mostly satisfied with the results, including better confidence and more self-esteem.

Possible complications include infection and scarring after surgery, O’Leary says. The implant can also move out of place later on, he says.

Bajic says some men are “growers, not showers,” which means their penises may seem small to them when they’re not erect. If they get the silicone sleeve surgery, “the implant always holds the penis at the same length.” So it may not look smaller when it’s not erect.

Another type of surgery is suspensory ligament release. Doctors do this operation on men whose penises point straight down when they have an erection. The surgeon makes a cut in the ligament at the top of your scrotum to help your erection look normal. But it doesn’t increase your penis’s length or size when it’s erect, says Bajic.

If you’re interested in surgery to treat penis size or your erections, make an appointment with a urologist, says Bajic.

He’s treated some men who had penile enlargement treatments like injections of silicone or fat. “I assure you, they did not have the outcomes they signed up for,” he says. These treatments don’t work and can sometimes be dangerous, he says.

Not keen to have penis surgery? Some simple nonmedical treatments, including grooming, or “manscaping,” may improve your genitals’ appearance, says O’Leary.

“Some men try shaving or waxing their pubic hair, and that may make your penis just stand out more,” he says.

Weight loss is another approach that improves your pubic presentation. When men put on a lot of weight as they age, they tend to gain fat in the area in front of their genitals. This can hide part of your penis and make it look smaller, he says. Losing weight can help your penis look larger by comparison.

Liposuction can also remove excess fat around your abdomen or pubic area to help your penis stand out more. Like any surgery, lipo can have complications.

Working out can help men look larger too, says O’Leary. Regular exercise can help cut the size of your “beer belly,” so your penis looks better. Getting fit may boost your confidence in bed too.

You may see these treatments pitched on TV, online, or in men’s magazines as ways to lengthen your penis:

Vacuum erection device. Vacuum pumps are used to treat men with erectile dysfunction (ED), a common condition in which you have trouble getting or keeping an erection. The device fits over your penis, and air is pumped out to create a vacuum.

“You need to use a penis ring with this device. It draws more blood to the penis to help it stay erect, but that won’t make your penis larger,” says O’Leary. Using a vacuum device too often can damage the tissue of your penis and make your erections weaker.

Traction weights. You can tie a weight or traction device, sometimes called a penile extender, to your non-erect penis to try to stretch it. Traction therapy can improve non-erect penis length in some men by up to 2 centimeters (a little more than ¾ of an inch). But it’s only approved for men with the early stages of Peyronie’s disease. These weights could also damage your penis.

Jelqing. This is an exercise where you place your thumb and index finger over your non-erect penis and pull on it repeatedly to increase the size. There’s no evidence that jelqing works.

Pills, supplements, creams, and lotions. Over-the-counter creams, as well as supplements, vitamins, or mineral pills that claim to increase penis size, simply don’t work. They also could contain contaminants like pesticides.

See your doctor before you buy any over-the-counter treatment for penis enlargement, says O’Leary. “All of the ads on TV that promise any treatment will add inches to your penis? None of them work. They’re a total sham,” he says.

If you’re unhappy with your penis size, consider sex therapy before you seek surgery or any other treatment, both urologists advise.

W. Myles Hassler, a certified sex therapist in Atlanta, treats heterosexual and LGBTQ men who worry that their penises aren’t large enough.

“Some men have been socialized to believe that their penis is too small because of stories they heard in high school from their buddies talking about their penis size, or they may see other guys who are larger,” he says.

Hassler first reviews their sexual history to find out if bad experiences from their past, or criticism from a current sex partner, has triggered shame or guilt about their bodies.

“I work with them to help them realize that it’s not about how big your penis is, but your sexual function and quality of intimacy,” he says.

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