“I’m worried about my child’s penis”
Doctors often see parents who are worried about abnormalities of their child’s penis, particularly if the foreskin seems too tight or if the penis appears small. They may be concerned about potential problems when their child reaches adulthood, such as difficulties with urination, erections and intercourse.
- In a newborn the foreskin is rarely retractable (ie. it won’t slide fully back over the head of the penis)
- Most boys still can’t fully retract it at the age of 10
- It will be fully retractable in the vast majority of boys by the age of 16
- After retracting the foreskin it’s important that it’s slid back to the tip of the penis – it should not be kept retracted as it may swell and cause problems (paraphimosis)
- Sometimes a foreskin can be too tight (phimosis). This can cause:
- difficulty passing urine
- spraying of urine
- ballooning of the foreskin with urine
- skin infections in the penis
- kidney problems if very severe and left untreated
- Pain during sex, if the problem persists till adulthood
Tight foreskin, if mild, can often be treated using creams the doctor can prescribe. However, if it’s severe or it’s not getting better it may require circumcision (surgical removal of the foreskin).
This is when the scrotum is attached to the underside of the penis along its shaft. It doesn’t usually
cause any health problems but should usually be corrected with surgery.
The penis is small or has even disappeared
This condition is known as “inconspicuous penis” and there can be several causes.
- Buried penis
The penis is buried in a pad of surrounding fat. Usually you can pull the tip forward or “pop” it out by pressing on the surrounding skin. In most cases this condition doesn’t require intervention and will correct itself as the child grows. It doesn’t tend to lead to any significant issues with future well-being. Rarely, surgery is needed if it doesn’t get better.
- Trapped penis
Usually as a result of a circumcision operation, the penis becomes stuck in the surrounding fat pad, or sometimes attached to the scrotum. This can normally be corrected very effectively with surgery and therefore doesn’t lead to any significant issues with future well-being. Untreated, it may cause urinary tract infections.
The table shown later in this article shows normal penis sizes depending on the child’s age. Micropenis can indicate hormonal or genetic issues and you should consult a doctor if you suspect your child has micropenis. Quite often the child’s penis size will return to normal if they are given regular testosterone. However, if the cause can’t be corrected there may be an issue that persists into adulthood.
- Absent penis (aphallia/penile agenesis)
This condition is vanishingly rare, so it’s highly unlikely your child has it. If you’re worried, you need to consult a doctor.
Normal penis size (and how to measure it)
Take the end of the penis between your fingertips and gently stretch it, then measure along the top of the penis from the pubic bone (at the base of the shaft) to the tip. Ideally you should use a rigid ruler and press the end of it against the pubic bone firmly so that the fat is squashed.
The table below shows an example of generally accepted measurements, though this can vary a little according to whose research you look at.
If you don’t feel comfortable measuring your child’s penis you should speak with a doctor who may be able to help.
|Age||Average||Micropenis – less than|
If any of the above information causes you concern, or if you think your child may have one of the conditions discussed, speak to a GP or paediatrician for further advice.
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