Our email inboxes fill up every day with advertisements for pills,
ointments, supplements, and contraptions aimed at enhancing penis size, sexual
stamina, or libido. It's a testimony to men's abiding insecurities about sexual
performance. The question is, do any of these "male enhancement" techniques
Richard, a mechanic from upstate New York, is a muscular, athletic
guy. He has a loving wife who has always enjoyed their sex life. But ever
since he was a young boy, Richard couldn't get over the feeling that his penis
was too small. In public bathrooms, he'd use the handicapped stall. He felt
embarrassed in gym locker rooms and when standing naked before his wife. "I
didn't feel manly enough," he tells WebMD.
Infertility has traditionally been thought of as a woman's problem. But as
it turns out, we men don't get off that easily. About one out of every three
cases of infertility is due to the man alone, and we're somehow involved in
infertility about half the time.
A diagnosis of male infertility can be one of the hardest challenges a man
can face. For some, it can be devastating. After all, the necessity of
reproduction is one of the few things on which both Darwin and the Bible agree.
Then, in the back of a weightlifting magazine, he saw an ad for the FastSize
Extender, a device that claims to make the penis longer and fatter through
traction. Richard began wearing the device almost eight hours a day, every day.
He was shocked to notice a difference within a few days. After four months of
wearing the device, he says his flaccid penis has stretched from 3 inches to
over 5 inches; erect, he has gone from less than 6 inches to over 7 inches. The
device cost $298, but Richard says the effect on his self-confidence has been
priceless: "It made a world of difference to me."
The FastSize Extender, though not extensively tested, has received some
validation from mainstream medical sources. But that makes it a true rarity
among the nonprescription methods of male enhancement. Most are a waste of
money, and some are downright dangerous, doctors say.
Instead of furtively turning to untested methods, men with persistent
concerns should consider opening up about them with their doctors. That's
because performance problems sometimes act as an early warning signal for
serious health problems. Your doctor might be able to prescribe something that
can really help, or least provide a valuable dose of perspective about what
constitutes "normal" sexual performance.
Links Between Sexual and Overall Health
Sexual performance declines naturally as men age, doctors say. But a rapid
or severe decrease in performance or libido can be a red flag. Most
importantly, erectile dysfunction may be an early predictor of heart
Atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits build up inside
arteries, may restrict blood flow to the penis and cause erection difficulties.
"The small blood vessels that go to the penis can become diseased much earlier
than the [larger] vessels that go to the heart," Karen Boyle, MD, a urologist
at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, tells WebMD. "In younger or younger
middle-aged men, ED is often the first sign of atherosclerosis."
For men with ED who are at risk of heart disease, prescribing Viagra or its
cousins isn't enough, Boyle says. These men should be also be controlling their
weight and cholesterol level, limiting their alcohol intake, and quitting
smoking. Evidence shows that these changes in themselves can have a positive
effect on sexual function, Boyle says.