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Penile health: what men need to know

Penile health rarely makes it into regular health tips columns, in great contrast to vaginal health. Both are however intertwined in matters of sexual and reproductive health. It should be men’s business to be keenly aware of their penile health. Penile problems are much more than issues with erections. Penis problems can sometimes be a sign of more serious underlying health conditions, like cardiovascular disease. Health issues affecting the penis can also affect other areas of your lifestyle. You may suffer stress, relationship problems and get an erosion of your self-confidence.

Common conditions affecting the penis include problems with erections, sexually transmitted infections, problems with the foreskin and other rarer disease conditions. Problems with erections can be caused by multiple conditions that include diabetes, diseases of blood vessels, smoking, psychological disturbances and hormonal imbalances. It is self-explanatory that having unprotected sex with individuals of unknown sexual health can lead to sexual infections. Some conditions can be self-inflicted, for example penis piercings or tattoos can cause infections or permanent scarring. So called acrobatic or aggressive sex and masturbation can cause grievous penile trauma, and is best avoided.

It is in your interest to be aware of symptoms that should prompt you to see your doctor. Warts, bumps, lesions or a rash on your penis should warrant a medical check. A burning sensation when passing urine, or a discharge from the penis may be signs of an infection. Any bleeding, unexplained pain or physical trauma to the penis must be checked promptly. You don’t need any reminding to seek help if you have problems with erections or ejaculation.

You can take steps to protect and maintain your penile health. Be sexually responsible, this will keep you away from sexually transmitted infections. And practice good genital hygiene. If you are 26 years or younger, get vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) to protect against genital warts and other associated diseases. Being physically active will protect you against cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and keep erectile problems at bay. Stop smoking and limit your alcohol intake, both are associated with penile conditions affecting your general reproductive health. Know your regular medications, some side effects may affect your penile function. Frequent sex might help maintain erectile function, do it often.

Some penile problems cannot be prevented, for example erectile changes related to ageing. But you are still in charge of your penis. Routinely examining your penis can give you greater awareness and help you detect any changes. Regular check-ups if something crops up can ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment. While you might find it difficult to discuss problems affecting your penis with your doctor, don't let embarrassment prevent you from taking charge of your health.

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