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What your penis may be telling you about your health

Published:Monday | July 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM

According to research findings from the urology department at Johns Hopkins Medicine in the United States, the state of a man's penis is a strong indication of his overall health. Dr Kevin Billups, an associate professor of urology, is urging men to pay attention to their penis, and heed the warning signs.

1. Your penis is going soft too often

An Austrian study found that the risk of developing heart disease within 10 years was 65 per cent higher in men with moderate or severe erectile dysfunction than in men without ED. Which means that your penis going soft more than twice a month is an indication of heart disease.

Blood vessels in the penis are significantly smaller and start to narrow long before those in the heart and brains, so consult a cardiologist if this starts to happen to you.

2. You are peeing blood

Blood in the urine can be a sign of prostate, bladder or kidney disease, so don't ignore it. Blood in the semen is less likely to be a serious problem, but still check with your doctor as it could be prostatitis, a gland inflammation that is often caused by an E. coli infection, which can be treated with antibiotics.

3. You are losing your sex drive

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder in which your airway becomes blocked, might be reducing your sex drive. German researchers found that men with the lowest levels of night-time blood oxygen reported sexual desire levels that were 11 per cent lower than men who breathed easily. OSA can reduce testosterone, affecting your erections as a result. If you snore loudly, wake up gasping for air, or feel exhausted during the day, ask your doctor about OSA testing.

4. The tip is red and swollen

Inflammation, redness and pain at the head of the penis is called balanitis, which is typically caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, often as a result of poor hygiene. An over-the-counter antifungal or a prescription steroid cream or antibiotics can clear it up. Also, get checked for diabetes. Research from Bristol-Myers Squibb shows that persons with diabetes are nearly three times likely to develop balanitis.

5. You are losing sensitivity

A numb penis is a sign of poor diet. Each day, make sure you consume at least 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 from sources such as clams, milk and beef. Also, ensure you have 400 micrograms of folate per day, found in leafy greens and black-eyed peas. A deficiency in these vitamins can prevent nerve fibres in the penis from carrying signals to the brain.

Also, have your blood sugar tested for diabetes. Even mildly high levels (above 100mg/dL after eight hours of fasting) can impact penile sensitivity.

6. Urinating too often

Frequent urination can likely be the result of benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, a condition that rarely causes symptoms before age 40 but affects up to 90 per cent of men in their 70s and 80s. When your prostate is enlarged, it presses on the tube that carries urine out of your body, giving you that persistent gotta-go feeling. Your doctor may prescribe alpha-blockers, pills that help BPH (and sometimes high blood pressure) by relaxing the smooth muscles in your prostate.

7. You produce less sperm or can't orgasm

Low testosterone can cause you to produce less sperm or being unable to have an orgasm. Testosterone helps produce semen, and the more semen you have, the more force you ejaculate with. Sometimes, the problem can lie with the medication you are taking. For instance, according to researchers in Iran, about one-third of men who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for depression experience difficulty reaching orgasm. Ask your doctor about the medications you are taking, and whether you should change the dose or switch medications.

8. Your erection is curving at a strange angle

One of up to 23 per cent of men ages 40 and over will get Peyronie's disease, a condition that makes an erect penis bend in any direction at an angle of 30 degrees or more. This happens when collagen plaques form on the connective tissue surrounding the spongy interior of the penis. Peyronie's disease may be caused by genetics or a sign of too much or too little sexual activity. See your doctor if this starts to happen to you. Also, consider doing a blood sugar test. High glucose levels alter stem cells in your penis, encouraging plaque to form.