What Causes Penis Shrinkage?

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 2/28/2023

Penis shrinkage: every man’s worst nightmare. 

We’d like to think life is more important than the size of a penis, but for many guys, it’s a common concern.

Penis shrinkage can be a very serious, very real problem — but not always. Depending on the cause, it can be temporary, but some penis shrinkage can also be permanent, especially if you don’t seek treatment early enough. 

Other times, however, it’s just a harmless, situational reaction to some internal or external stimulation (you can think of it as a sort of reverse erection). In between are a number of other tangentially related factors that can contribute to the apparent shrinking of a penis without actually affecting the penis at all.

In other words, penis shrinkage isn’t what you think it is — and the causes are a lot more diverse than you might suspect.

Worried? Fumbling around for the ruler to check something real quick?

Relax. Penis shrinkage isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. Here’s what to know.

What Is Penis Shrinkage? 

It would be nice to wrap up this article quickly and efficiently, but we encounter our first complication when trying to define penis shrinkage.

Unfortunately, there’s no single definition for penis shrinkage because what the average person considers “shrinkage” can actually be various behaviors.

For instance, shrinkage that happens when the hot water runs out in the shower is a reduction in the volume of your penis due to something called vasoconstriction — literally the constriction of the penis’s vascular tissues.

Anxiety can also cause this to happen. Like a turtle pulling its head and limbs tight into its shell, your penis can effectively “retract” in certain circumstances for its (and your) protection.

But more often than not, the medical community is referring to actual shrinkage of the penis tissues. In this case, the penis may be permanently or temporarily reduced in flaccid and erect size — if it’s able to become erect at all.

Why Is My Penis Shrinking, and What Causes Penis Shrinkage?

Penis shrinkage is a problem with many causes. We’ll skip the weather and anxiety, as we’ve already mentioned that those are situational and temporary responses, meaning they don’t present an actual reduction of the size of the penis.

Several other factors may cause penile shrinkage, though. Let’s take a look.

Peyronie’s Disease

One potential cause of penile shrinkage is Peyronie’s disease, a disorder in which nonmalignant scar tissue develops inside the penis. This can not only lead to curvature of the penis but also painful erections and shortening of the penis.

Peyronie’s disease is thought to be caused by wound healing — you have to injure your penis, at which point it may heal incorrectly in this condition. But the exact mechanism of why someone develops this is not fully understood.

Visceral (Abdominal) Fat

As much as it may seem unfair, fat guys are not served by their size, and too much of a “dad bod” might actually be leaving some length unused. In other words, your penis can “shrink” because your full length is hidden behind body fat.

In extreme cases with morbidly obese folks, this condition can cause complications. Known as “buried penis,” it’s like the scene from The Neverending Story with the horse — except the quicksand is your body fat and the horse is, well…you get the picture.

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We weren’t able to find any studies suggesting aging alone can cause your penis to shrink, so those extra candles each year aren’t ironic as they burn shorter.

But one of the symptoms associated with aging — fatty deposits on the abdomen — may affect net penis length by increasing pubic fat, which, as you read above, can hide and therefore decrease the appearance of penile length. So for the millionth time, take care of your body and keep the excess weight off as you age because weight gain affects your health in more ways than you know.

Prostate Surgery

One of the potential causes of penis shrinkage is radical prostatectomy — the total removal of the prostate. One study showed that radical prostatectomy causes penile shrinkage starting postoperatively with the removal of a catheter.

According to research, a person who has undergone radical prostatectomy can expect to experience some fairly immediate signs of penile shrinkage, followed by an additional year of ongoing shrinkage to a lesser extent.

Nerve-sparing surgery techniques and recovery of erectile function both have what’s called a “protective” influence against shrinkage after the one-year mark. The extent of shrinkage you can initially expect from radical prostatectomy is, on average, about 1 centimeter — a little more than a third of an inch shorter.

Androgen Suppression and Radiation

For the record, surgery may not be the only cause of penis shrinkage related to prostate cancer. A 2007 study found that penile shortening can occur from this combination treatment. Though we should note the relatively small sample size of 47 patients and a lack of notable follow-up studies leave some questions unanswered.

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How to Treat Penis Shrinkage

The good thing about penis shrinkage is that, in most cases, it’s either reversible or treatable. But unfortunately, some causes of shrinkage are much harder to treat than others.

Things tend to get back to normal proportions when cold and anxiety dissipate, so that’s a fairly easy one.

Addressing the effects of weight gain, meanwhile, may not be easy. But losing weight is arguably simple compared to the options that await more severe cases.

In truth, treatment for penile shrinkage is limited. As much as the back walls of gas stations would like you to believe otherwise, there isn’t a medication, root, herb, supplement or vitamin approved for increasing your penis size. In fact, there aren’t very many options at all.

That said, here are a few things you can consider.

Vacuum Devices

One that continues to show promise both for erectile dysfunction and size decreases is the relatively un-innovative vacuum erection device (aka penis pump).

Sometimes called vacuum therapy, the penis pump has been shown in studies to offer functional benefits in people with ED, and research suggests it can help preserve penile shaft length after prostate surgery. However, there are still many questions about how to best apply the treatment, which means you could do a lot of pumping for nothing without guidance.

Surgical Options

If you’re willing to go under the knife with your most sensitive of organs, you may be a candidate for penile enlargement surgery, which involves a penile implant.

One study showed that grafting surgery could be effectively used to add girth and length in restoration after severe Peyronie’s disease, with an overall patient satisfaction rate of nearly 90 percent. However, penis surgery is usually pretty expensive, and the recovery may not sound very fun.

Erectile Dysfunction Medications

Arguably, one of the best ways to deal with a penile shrinkage problem is to simply do the rehab and treatment programs recommended by healthcare professionals.

In the case of ED after prostatectomy and ED, this would typically involve using medication like PDE-5 inhibitors to deal with the functional issue of blood flow to the penis.

Research hasn’t shown that medications for ED make your penis bigger. But they have been correlated with better erectile rehabilitation after surgery, especially in the case of sildenafil, the generic version of Viagra.

So in the sense that a functioning penis is resistant to certain types of shrinkage and penile atrophy, it’s actually one of the best options you have.

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Penis Shrinkage: The Big Picture

Let’s talk about sexual health for a moment — and how to care for it.

Penis shrinkage may or may not be a real problem for your sex life — and its effects may or may not be permanent. Unfortunately, while we can describe the symptoms of different types of shrinkage with authority, we can’t tell you what you’re experiencing.

That’s a job for a healthcare professional who can assess your individual symptoms and physiology for clues as to why you’re coming up short with that ruler. Explore the sexual health resources at Hims to get started.

11 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Jo, J. K., Jeong, S. J., Oh, J. J., Lee, S. W., Lee, S., Hong, S. K., Byun, S. S., & Lee, S. E. (2018). Effect of Starting Penile Rehabilitation with Sildenafil Immediately after Robot-Assisted Laparoscopic Radical Prostatectomy on Erectile Function Recovery: A Prospective Randomized Trial. The Journal of urology, 199(6), 1600–1606.
  2. Cohen P. R. (2021). Adult Acquired Buried Penis: A Hidden Problem in Obese Men. Cureus, 13(2), e13067.
  3. Egydio, P.H., Kuehhas, F.E. and Sansalone, S. (2013), Penile length and girth restoration in severe Peyronie's disease using circular and longitudinal grafting. BJU International, 111: E213-E219.
  4. Pahlajani, G., Raina, R., Jones, S., Ali, M., & Zippe, C. (2012). Vacuum erection devices revisited: its emerging role in the treatment of erectile dysfunction and early penile rehabilitation following prostate cancer therapy. The journal of sexual medicine, 9(4), 1182–1189.
  5. Mattelaer, J. J., & Jilek, W. (2007). Koro--the psychological disappearance of the penis. The journal of sexual medicine, 4(5), 1509–1515.
  6. Sandean DP, Lotfollahzadeh S. Peyronie Disease. Updated 2022 Dec 3. In: StatPearls Internet. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:
  7. Gontero, P., Galzerano, M., Bartoletti, R., Magnani, C., Tizzani, A., Frea, B., & Mondaini, N. (2007). New insights into the pathogenesis of penile shortening after radical prostatectomy and the role of postoperative sexual function. The Journal of urology, 178(2), 602–607.
  8. Haliloglu, A., Baltaci, S., & Yaman, O. (2007). Penile length changes in men treated with androgen suppression plus radiation therapy for local or locally advanced prostate cancer. The Journal of urology, 177(1), 128–130.
  9. Hunter, G. R., Gower, B. A., & Kane, B. L. (2010). Age Related Shift in Visceral Fat. International journal of body composition research, 8(3), 103–108.
  10. Cleveland Clinic. Buried Penis. (2020). Retrieved from
  11. NIH. National Library of Medicine. Vacuum erectile devices for erection problems. (2022). Retrieved from

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.