What Is a Micropenis and How Common Is It?

According to research, almost 50% of men subject themselves to chronic stress because they think their penis isn’t big enough to satisfy their partner. In reality, not only are their partners perfectly happy with their penis size, but most of them also exceed the average length of 5.21 inches. Still, likely due to the increased availability of online pornography and aggressive marketing of products that promise to improve their sex lives by helping them add extra inches, men continue to believe they have a problem.

Meanwhile, there are some men who actually have an abnormally small penis. This condition, which is influenced by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors, is referred to as micropenis.

What Is a Micropenis?

Micropenis is a medical term which refers to a penis that is considerably (about 2.5 standard deviations) shorter than the average when stretched. If the average stretched penis size is 5.21 inches, a penis that measures 3.66 inches or shorter when stretched would be considered a micropenis.

This condition is typically acquired by birth, and the measurements vary depending on a man’s age. In newborns, a stretched penis length of 0.75 inches and shorter constitutes a micropenis, while the threshold doubles to 1.5 inches for prepubescent boys. However, despite the small penis size, men with a micropenis usually have perfectly functional testicles and healthy internal genitalia.

What Causes a Micropenis?

As already mentioned, a micropenis is usually caused by a combination of hormonal and genetic factors.

A man’s penis develops while he’s still in the womb. This process is directly influenced by androgen hormones, primarily testosterone. However, if a fetus cannot produce enough of this hormone or if the mother’s body doesn’t produce enough hCG, a hormone that regulates testosterone production in the fetus, a testosterone deficiency can occur and cause genital birth defects, micropenis included. In some cases, a fetus can develop a testosterone insensitivity which can create similar problems.

Micropenis is usually diagnosed during the first three months of a baby’s life. Because testosterone is overly active in the weeks after birth, this period is particularly important for penile growth. As such, any hormonal imbalance this time could impact the newborn’s penis size.

Hormonal imbalances are the most common cause of micropenis, but they’re not the only one. A study published in 2011 revealed that environmental factors could also play a part. Namely, the authors found that males who were exposed to pesticides in the fetal stage were more likely to develop a micropenis.

Micropenis can also occur as a result of some medical conditions and disorders, including the following:

  • Prader-Willi syndrome, which occurs when certain genes lose their function
  • Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, the reduced production of sex hormones due to problems with the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland
  • Kallmann syndrome, a type of hypogonadotropic hypogonadism that delays puberty
  • Laurence-Moon syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes problems with eyes, muscles, and cognition

There are also cases where doctors can’t determine the exact cause of the condition.

How Common Is Micropenis?

Micropenis is fairly rare. According to statistics for the period between 1997 and 2000, only about 0.015% of male babies in the US are born with a micropenis. There have been no new reports in recent years. It is believed that the prevalence has remained the same as two decades ago, but the awareness of this condition has increased due to frequent discussions in the media.

Some small studies indicate that there may be regional varieties in the prevalence of micropenis. This likely has to do with environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins and pesticides.

How Is a Micropenis Diagnosed?

If you suspect your child has a micropenis, you should take him to the doctor for a checkup. Due to the nature of the condition, you will likely be referred to a urologist and/or an endocrinologist.

In addition to measuring the baby’s penis with professional tools, they will also look at your family’s medical records to determine if there is a history of this condition. If the doctor determines that your child indeed has a micropenis, they will proceed to run blood tests to notice any hormonal imbalances that may have contributed to the diagnosis.

Because of the similarities it shares with some other conditions, a micropenis can sometimes be misdiagnosed. What is a micropenis most often confused with? There are two common culprits – a webbed penis and a buried penis. The former occurs when the skin from the scrotum is attached too high to the penis shaft. Most babies are born with it, while men of all ages can also develop it as a result of complications following circumcision.

A buried penis can also be acquired by birth but tends to develop later in life. With this condition, although the penis is normal in size, it is hidden behind layers of skin due to either a fat buildup or some other abnormality. It most commonly occurs in obese people, so if you’re an adult with weight problems and suspect you may have a micropenis, chances are you have a buried penis instead. Of course, you should still schedule an appointment with your urologist to receive a proper diagnosis.

How Is Micropenis Treated?

Doctors usually prescribe hormone therapy to treat a micropenis. This can be particularly effective in infancy, while penile growth is still in progress. Although it is also prescribed to adolescents and adults, it might not achieve the same results at that age. Doctors usually start hormone therapy by prescribing a course of testosterone shots. If the treatment isn’t successful, they may introduce other hormones.

In case hormone therapy fails to help you achieve the desired results, your doctor may recommend phalloplasty. This procedure involves surgical modifications to the penis in order to increase its size. While phalloplasty can also be performed at a young age, it is most often done during puberty or adulthood due to the potential risks involved.

Living a Full Life with a Micropenis

Although micropenis is classified as a medical condition and treated by doctors, it generally shouldn’t prevent you from having a fulfilling sex life. Research shows that most men’s sexual functioning isn’t affected by their micropenis diagnosis, regardless of whether or not they decided to treat it.

Even though it may require some adjustment from both you and your partner, you can still enjoy an exciting intimate relationship. What’s more, a 2018 study found that more than 80% of women can’t achieve orgasm just from vaginal penetration, so there are plenty of other techniques to explore.

Many men who have a micropenis need psychological support to come to terms with their problems, accept their bodies, and regain their self-confidence. If you’re one of them, don’t be afraid to visit a psychologist or a psychotherapist. If you’ve never been to one, ask your family doctor, urologist, or endocrinologist for recommendations.

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25487360
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3890219/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21868402
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17849741
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17955-micropenis/management-and-treatment
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28678639

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