Disuse Atrophy is a medical term used to describe the condition of loss of normal healthy tissue and worsening function after a prolonged period of lack of use. This condition applies to all organs. This is especially an issue with a male sexual dysfunction such as ED because the longer the disuse the greater the chance that proactive measures will not work, or treatments can take much longer to show positive results. When atrophy of penile tissue occurs then the elastin and smooth muscle can shrink, creating at best a loss of a man’s penis length and girth and at worst lack of response to ED treatments. (What is ED?)
For those who have had a radical prostatectomy (prostate removal), a surgical procedure used to treat prostate cancer, an actual shrinkage of the penis can occur. Even before beginning androgen deprivation therapy, some men undergoing this deprivation regimen frequently had poor erections due to radical prostatectomy, pelvic radiation therapy, or both. Urethral reduction and the associated scarring in the region of surgery can compound or cause erectile dysfunction. Rehabilitation of the organ is necessary to prevent disuse atrophy.
Causes of Penis Atrophy
Other health conditions can cause penile shrinkage, like:
- Peyronie’s Disease
- Cycling, Horseback Riding, Saddle Sports
- Stress or Nerves
- Exposure to Cold
- Over-strenuous Exercise
- Obesity / Weight Gain (can cause ‘apparent loss’)
- Prostate surgery
There are also some cases where it can be also caused by certain medications. For example, a 2012 study reported in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found some male study subjects that were taking Finasteride, which is used to treat enlarged prostate, reported a reduced sensation in the penis and smaller penis size. In addition to some drugs for enlarged prostate, other medicines like Adderall, some antipsychotics, and antidepressants can also cause penis shrinkage. Some practical options for reversing penis shrinkage are complicated and expensive procedures and implants (penile prosthesis).
Men with Peyronie’s Disease also have a greater chance of developing penile fibrosis, which is why treatments for Peyronie’s disease concentrate on decreasing or eliminating the scar tissue that lies beneath the surface of the penis through medication, surgery, ultrasound, and other procedures. Scar tissue can accumulate over time as a result of recurrent minor injuries to the penis from sexual activity or sports. The sheath that originally encircled the spongy erectile tissues in your penis experiences this accumulation. The blood vessels in the penis may be damaged by chemicals from cigarette smoking, which would hinder the penis from filling with blood and stretching. Sexual activity is a penis-exercising exercise. Fill your erectile tissue with blood, maintain the health of your penile muscle cells, sustain your erectile function, adopt healthy living practices, quit smoking, and enhance your general health.
There are also indications that the ‘memory’ portions of the brain need at least occasional stimulus to act at optimum levels. The hypothalamus is thought to be the area of the brain that regulates thirst, hunger, sex, and other functions. As we age the neuroplasticity (or malleability) of the brain, which helps us compensate for certain disorders in the body, begins to decrease. The central nervous system and peripheral nervous system control the functions of the body and like a car or even a computer requires some degree of maintenance.
Aging can also cause men to experience a loss of sexual function and penile shortening. Aging also plays a part in the reduction of the penis size since some shrinking of the penises —and testicles—will occur over time as well. One reason, for example, in an older male reduced blood flow to the penis could occur due to the buildup of fatty deposits that could mean fewer firm erections or make it difficult to achieve an erection altogether. 50% of men begin to experience ED by the age of 40 and this can increase by up to 10% each decade.
Another reason is that as men age and gain weight, the increased fatty deposits in the abdominal wall can make the penis appear smaller. Some experts have even estimated that one-ich in apparent penile length is lost for every 35 pounds of weight gained.
Medically reviewed by Daniel Murrell, MD, and Research studies (and just plain common sense) dictates that the more you utilize a function the longer you can maintain and regulate its performance. Maintaining a healthy sex life or frequent and vigorous sexual activity is the best cure for disuse atrophy or penile atrophy; to perform, some men need a ‘kick-start’ and there are a variety of effective treatments available to prevent this progressing health condition. The size of the flaccid penis changes depending on the amount of blood that is inside the member at that particular time, hence it is unrelated to the size it attains when erect. Because of this, the flaccid penis tends to be more retracted in cooler environments.
To get the best response from pills and treatment, and avoid degradation or disuse atrophy, it’s best for any man who is experiencing penis shrinkage to stop the procrastination and act soon.
Your surgeon might advise a procedure called penile rehabilitation following the penile enlargement surgery. It entails utilizing a suction device in conjunction with erectile dysfunction medications like sildenafil (Viagra) or tadalafil (Cialis), which boost blood flow to the penis and restore its erectile function. After surgery, most men have problems getting erections because the tissues in the penis are deprived of oxygen-rich blood.
If you want to seek treatment or professional medical advice on disuse atrophy, talk to your healthcare provider.