The penis is normally a sensitive organ. Sometimes, though, the penis can become numb. That means you can no longer feel normal sensation when it’s touched. If you don’t treat the cause of penile numbness, it could start to affect your sex life.
Keep reading to learn more about penile numbness.
If you’re experiencing penile numbness, you may feel nothing or you may feel as if your penis is asleep. Depending on the cause, you might also experience other symptoms and sensations, such as:
- bluish skin
- a burning feeling
- a cold feeling
- a pins-and-needles feeling
- a tingling feeling
The following are possible causes of penile numbness.
Injury to the penis
Although it’s not clear how many men have penile numbness due to disease or low testosterone, people have researched this phenomenon among cyclists. One study from 2001 found that 61 percent of male cyclists experienced numbness in the genital area.
Penile numbness is common in men who cycle, especially those who ride long distances. It happens when the bicycle seat puts pressure on the perineum. The perineum in men is the area between the man’s scrotum and anus. The seat can press down on blood vessels, as well as nerves that run through the perineum and provide feeling to the penis. This repeated pressure can eventually lead to difficulty getting an erection, which is called erectile dysfunction (ED). If you do cycle and experience ED, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk.
Numbness can also be a side effect men get from using a vacuum device called a penis pump. A penis pump is used to achieve an erection. This device uses suction to pull blood into the penis. It can cause temporary numbness, along with symptoms like bruising, pain, and cuts in the skin.
Diseases and drug side effects
Any disease that damages the nerves can affect feeling in the penis and other parts of the body. Nerve damage is known as neuropathy.
Diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS) are among the diseases that can cause nerve damage and affect feeling in the penis. Peyronie’s disease, a condition in which scar tissue called plaque forms in the penis, can also affect sensation. These conditions can also lead to ED.
Testosterone is the hormone that affects a man’s sex drive, muscle mass, and sperm production, among other things. With age, testosterone levels gradually decline. This condition is known as low testosterone or “low T.”
Along with affecting your sex drive, mood, and energy level, low T can make you less responsive to sexual stimulation. If you have low T, you’ll still feel pain and other sensations in your penis, but you may experience less feeling and pleasure during sex.
Penile numbness can affect men who:
- have a disease that damages the nerves or affects the penis, such as diabetes, MS, or Peyronie’s disease
- have a spinal cord or brain injury following trauma or degenerative disease
- cycle often or for long distances
- have low T
- take the drug selegiline
Your doctor will take a medical history and do a physical exam to find the cause of the numbness. They might ask you questions such as:
- When did the numbness start?
- Do you have any feeling in the penis? If so, what do you feel?
- Does anything seem to make the numbness better or worse?
- How’s the numbness affecting your sex life?
The tests you need will depend on what condition the doctor suspects, but they might include:
- blood tests to check your testosterone levels
- imaging tests such as MRI scans, to look for problems with the brain and spinal cord
- an ultrasound to check for scar tissue and blood flow to the penis
Your treatment will be dependent on the cause of your penile numbness.
If your penile numbness is due to cycling, you may need to cut back on your riding time or avoid bicycling for a few weeks. If you don’t want to give up riding, you can try one of these accommodations to take the pressure off your genital area:
- get a wider seat that has extra padding
- wear padded bike shorts
- raise the seat or angle it downward to relieve pressure on the perineum
- change position or take breaks from time to time while riding
If a suction device caused the numbness, the numbness should go away once you stop using the pump. Ask your doctor for other methods to help you get an erection.
Your doctor will treat the disease that caused your penis to become numb:
- If you have diabetes, you’ll need to bring your blood sugar under control with diet, exercise, and medications to prevent and manage nerve damage.
- If you have MS, your doctor may treat it with steroids and other drugs that slow the disease and control symptoms.
- If you have Peyronie’s disease, you doctor may treat it with collagenase clostridium histolyticum (Xiaflex). This drug breaks down the collagen that causes scar tissue to form in the penis.
Treating low testosterone
Your doctor can treat low T by replacing the testosterone your body is missing. Testosterone comes in several forms:
- gels that you rub on your skin
Testosterone therapy should improve your sex drive, along with your ability to feel pleasure.
Whether you regain feeling in your penis depends on what caused the condition. If biking is the cause, once you cut back on your rides or change your seat configuration, the numbness will likely go away. For conditions like Peyronie’s disease or MS, treatment may help. If the cause is low T, increasing your testosterone level should restore feeling.
See your doctor if your penis stays numb, especially if it’s affecting your sex life. You might have to try a few different treatments to find one that works.