Increase penis size?

1) Hi Alice,

I was just wondering... Yes, I know that you advocate that the penis size is not everything, but I have noticed that there are ads out there that advertise about size increases and building a stronger penis. I was wondering if those pumps or vacuums really do work and if you can, please explain how it works. Are there side effects? In the ad, it also states that it prolongs one's erection and it prevents premature ejaculation. Is this also true?


2) Dear Alice,

I have been thinking about purchasing a penis enlargement pump. Are there any problems with them and do they work? If so, what kind do you recommend?

Small penis that wants to get bigger

Dear Confused??? and Small penis that wants to get bigger,

Advertisements can be misleading, and the ads you’ve been seeing are no exception. Penis pumps can help create and maintain erections for a short period of time, but beyond that, the advertisements are likely making a load of inflated claims. Additionally, most other penile enhancements that are intended to have longer-lasting effects often don't have much evidence behind them. While there are a few that may increase the length, they often aren't recommended as a first course of action for those who are unhappy with the length of their penis. Want to know more about these devices and penis procedures? Keep on reading!

Penis pumps are used to help people who experience erectile dysfunction (difficulty getting or maintaining an erection) to temporarily become erect. Pumps usually consist of a plastic cylinder that fits over the penis. A hand pump or electric pump forces the air out, creating a vacuum that draws blood into the penis, resulting in an erection. Once the penis is fully erect, a rubber constriction ring is slipped around the base of the penis, which keeps the penis engorged during sexual activity. Penis pumps can't prevent premature ejaculation, but as long as the band remains in place, the erection is likely to remain (though it's best to make sure the band isn't in place for more than 30 minutes at a time as it could damage the penis).

Despite the boasting of some advertisements, penis pumps aren't meant for penis enlargement, as there isn't sufficient evidence that they're effective in enlarging the penis. Additionally, they could cause damage when used often or for extended periods of time. The risks include: tissue injury, trauma, infection, and aggravation of existing medical conditions. Penis pumps can be harmful if you have sickle cell anemia, another blood disorder, or take blood thinners.

In terms of long-term penile enhancement, the options are often pose some physical and functional risk and they don't have extensive research behind them. In the media, there are claims of penile augmentation surgeries such as fat injections, silicone injections, or soft, non-absorbable, soft tissue filler (polymethylmethacrylate microspheres) that can help increase the girth or length of the penis, but they’ve all been linked to adverse effects such as deformity, decreased sensation, or impaired functionality. Some long-term options that have fewer adverse effects include the injection of hyaluronic acid (HA)-based gels and penile extenders. That being said, HA-based gels still can reduce sensation of the penis and, like the other methods listed, there isn’t enough research behind HA injections to make solid claims about its effectiveness or risk level. Penile extenders do show some evidence that they may be able to lengthen the penis by approximately one to two centimeters. However, these are primarily used for those with Peyronie's disease to straighten the penis or for those who have already had penis augmentation surgery, rather than as the treatment itself. 

One more thing: Researchers note that most folks who seek penile-enhancement actually have typical-sized penises and have either been misled by a size-obsessed culture or struggle with penile dysmorphophobia, in which they perceive their penises to be too small. Because of this, long-term enlargement surgeries or injections are discouraged in favor of short-term penile extenders such as pumps and medications. Furthermore, experts recommend that those who may be struggling with penile dysmorphophobia or other dissatisfaction with penis size seek help from a mental health professional first in order to address their concerns around their penis size.

Ultimately, penile enhancements aren't necessary and for many, aren't recommended, for a fulfilling sex life. Whatever the penis' size or function, there are many options to give and receive pleasure that don’t require large erections (or even erections at all). A fulfilling sex life can still be had, regardless of anatomy. You may find it helpful to check out the Sexual Variety category in the Sexual & Reproductive Health archives to learn more. If penis size is make it or break it for a potential partner, it's worth considering whether they're a compatible companion in the first place in the first place.

Last updated Feb 22, 2019
Originally published May 01, 1994

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