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Penis enlargement: Does it work?

How effective are pumps, pills, exercises or surgery?
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Many men, although they might not readily admit it, are insecure about the size of their penis. We're constantly bombarded with spam offering myriad ways to get a bigger penis. The internet and small ads in men's magazines are not averse to exploiting male insecurities about size as it's a multi-million pound global industry.

There are lots of apparent options out there: penis pills, creams, stretching exercises and even penis surgery. Some are outright hoaxes; others have modest benefits but potentially serious side effects.

How small is a small penis?

Some men think they have a small penis when they are in a normal range. The typical erect penis is usually five to six inches long with a circumference of 4 to 5 inches. There's more variation in the size of flaccid penises.

In rare cases, genetics and hormone problems cause a condition called micropenis - an erect penis of under three inches. Sometimes Peyronie's disease or prostate cancer surgery can reduce a man's size.

However, studies show that most of the men seeking penis enlargement are average-sized. They just think they're below average.

Psychology plays a role, too. Some average-sized men become obsessed with the idea that they're too small. There's even a psychiatric diagnosis: penile dysmorphic disorder. It's similar to the perceptual distortion that people with anorexia suffer who think they're fat no matter how thin they get.

The confidence boost

Men can make themselves feel more confident by trimming pubic hair. A big outcrop of hair can often make a penis look smaller. Losing weight will also make your penis look bigger as you won't have a big belly hanging over it.

"Men agonise over the size they are - I get loads of letters and calls about it," says sex expert and best-selling author Tracey Cox, "But it's men who perpetrate the whole 'big is better' thing, not women."

"While most would quite like an average size penis, few women I know want a man with a huge penis."

Pills, creams and supplements

There's no evidence at all that any of these work. These products usually contain vitamins, minerals, herbs or hormones that claim to enlarge the penis.

Their hype and testimonials may be impressive but they are generally a complete waste of time and money.

Pump up the volume?

The vacuum pump is a cylinder that sucks out air. You stick your penis in and the resulting vacuum draws extra blood into it, making it erect and a little bigger. You then clamp off the penis with a tight ring to keep the blood from leaking back into your body.

The effect only lasts as long as you have the ring on. Using it for more than 20 to 30 minutes can cause tissue damage, leading to weaker erections.

"There is very little evidence that these devices cause any significant long-term gain in size," says consultant in sexual medicine Professor Kevan Wylie. "Using a pump for a few minutes a day won't do anything to increase penis size."

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