Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/29/2020
We get it, it’s not easy to seek medical advice for sexual issues.
In fact, studies show that men are less likely to seek medical treatment than women, and worse, when we do see a healthcare professional, we usually receive less of their time, on average.
Toss a stigmatized reason for seeking treatment into the mix — like sexual dysfunction, for instance — and we can see why many men are quiet as church mice about it.
But that doesn’t mean it’s okay, and doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek the help you need.
That said, today we’re talking about penile sensitivity. What is it? How does it happen? What are your treatment options? We’re going through all these questions and more.
As a man, your penis is generally one thing you can count on to be there and ready for action whenever you need it, and, when you’re younger, sometimes when you don’t need it at all. So when this trusted friend lets you down, “troubling” may not begin to describe what you’re feeling.
Lacking sensation in your penis could mean different things for different people. Maybe your problem is more of a libido issue — where the lack of sensitivity is actually a feeling of disinterest in sex or an inability to get a firm erection.
Or perhaps you can get hard, but the sensations when your penis is touched aren’t as intense as they once were.
For some men, a lack of feeling in the penis could be as extreme as feeling “numb” or lacking all sensation. And for others, it may result in an inability to reach orgasm.
Understanding exactly what you’re experiencing when you claim a lack of penile sensitivity can help you begin to unpack what could be causing your problem, and how to go about fixing it.
Regardless of the cause, a lack of sensation in your penis can be incredibly frustrating, especially if the experience is a new one.
If your loss of sensation results in the inability to reach orgasm (or delayed ejaculation — think of it as the opposite of premature ejaculation), the frustration can be shared with your partner.
The fun of an extra long session in the sack is lost when your partner realizes it’s lasting only because you’re not fully enjoying yourself.
There are a number of potential reasons you’ve lost sensation in your penis. These reasons could be psychological, related to a medication, mechanical (related to positioning or how you’re using your penis) or a sign of a medical condition.
Let’s start with a potential psychological cause of reduced sensitivity in your penis. Stress wreaks havoc on your body, and it affects your sexual health too.
Stress triggers the production of cortisol, a hormone important in regulating blood pressure, circulatory function and your reproductive system.
Too much cortisol may cause hamper testosterone production which could affect your sex drive or libido.
Having low levels of the hormone testosterone can lead to decreased sexual sensitivity, erectile dysfunction and loss of libido, among other things.
Your “T-levels” generally drop as you age, but older men aren’t the only ones with low testosterone levels.
Injury to your testicles, prostate cancer or other kinds of cancer, certain medications, infections and numerous other medical conditions can impact how much testosterone you have.
Medications come with potential side effects, and sometimes they can impact your sexual health.
Medications such as antidepressants (SSRIs, in particular), antipsychotics, opioids and those taken for hormonal conditions can cause decreased sensitivity or the inability to reach orgasm.
Yes, there is such a thing as masturbating too much.
Floating around the internet as “death grip syndrome,” this condition is controversial (as in, some people don’t think it’s real). But scientific literature suggests some men find it easier to experience pleasure (and come) when masturbating than when having sexual encounters with a partner.
This, it’s suggested, may be due to habitual masturbation practices — when you get used to orgasming alone, penile sensitivity decreases, so you increase the amount of force or vigor you use, which only worsens the situation.
In fact, one small study found that men who suffered from delayed ejaculation, or DE, reported higher frequency of masturbation and decreased sensation in their penile shaft.
Penile sensation depends on proper nerve functioning, and an injury can hinder the delivery of pleasure messages from the penis to the nerve receptors of the brain.
In particular, an injury to the spinal cord, nerves in the pelvis or even damage from sitting for long periods (and pressure on the perineum) can impact how your nerves report sensations to your brain.
If you want to feel more from your penis, you may need to rethink how you have sex.
One way to increase penis sensitivity is to increase friction. Some lubrication is good when getting down to business, but too much can hamper sensitivity.
Changing the position you’re having sex in can increase friction but also spice things up. As your partner’s body moves, how your genitals connect changes.
Try having them put their legs together or lie on their stomach to see if that boosts your sensations.
Specifically, stop sitting in the wrong places.
Cyclists are at risk of developing a numbed penis because of how a bicycle seat applies pressure to the perineum — the space between your anus and testicles or scrotum.
But riding a bike isn’t the only thing that can lead to this — anytime you’re frequently sitting and your buttocks aren’t holding and distributing your weight, or anytime there is pressure on the perineum, you risk compressing these important nerves and blood vessels.
Yes, death grip syndrome. If you find your lack of penile sensitivity is mainly during sex with a partner and not when masturbating, it may be time to take a break from self-pleasuring.
This is particularly true if you practice “idiosyncratic” masturbation methods, according to researchers, or methods that are unique and habitual, such as those you’d never encounter with a partner.
If you take antidepressants or other medications that you believe are contributing to your lack of sensation, talk to your healthcare provider about alternatives.
They may be able to recommend a medication that doesn’t have sexual side effects, or prescribe an additional medication to counteract these effects.
If your lack of sensitivity is a sign of erectile dysfunction, a healthcare provider can help determine if an ED treatment like sildenafil is right for you.
However, if a loss of a libido and difficulty getting hard are among your symptoms, an FDA-approved ED treatment may be a safe solution.
Delayed ejaculation that is sporadic could be due to psychological reasons, whereas not being stimulated to orgasm on a consistent basis could be a clue of a medical problem.
If you have any inkling that your loss of penile sensitivity is a medical issue, talk to a healthcare professional.
Neuropathy, or damage to the nerve endings, more common in diabetics, could be to blame for your condition, and could be a sign of something more serious.
Likewise, a loss of sensation could be a sign of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease. MS can lead to a lack of penile sensation and inability to become sexuallly stimulated.
When it comes to penile sensitivity, there’s a lot riding on it. Aside from the obvious — your sexual health and wellbeing — penile sensitivity is a symptom of several other potentially serious health issues that require the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Luckily, you’re here. You found the answers you were looking for, and now you’re ready to consider next steps.
While there are several potential culprits for a decrease in penile sensitivity, and several different things you can do to help remedy it, the best thing you can do is contact your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to help assess your situation, figure out what’s causing your penile sensitivity and point you in a direction that makes sense for your needs.