Microphallus, commonly known as micropenis, is a medical condition that effects approximately 0.5% of the male population. It is generally defined as an penile length of 2.5 standard deviations or more lower than the mean within the person’s age group. In adults, the condition applies to men with a penis shorter than 2.8 inches when stretched, or 3.5 inches when erect. Having a micropenis can cause several adverse physical and psychological effects. This week, The Medical Station discusses the health effects on men with microphallus.
What is Microphallus and Why Does it Occur?
Microphallus refers to the length of a penis that is shorter than 2.5 SD less than the average penile length for men of his age. The condition is caused by the male fetus’s penis failing to elongate after the first trimester of pregnancy. This occurs when the fetus is lacking in testosterone. As well, genetic mutations in a gene called enzyme steroid 5-alpha reductase 2 (SRD5A2 for short), can also cause microphallus, as the mutations do not allow the gene to process testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Furthermore, research has shown that dioxins, pesticides, and environmental chemicals can all contribute to microphallus. Factors such as ethnicity, and of course age, should be taken into account when assessing a man for microphallus, as there are differences in the average size depending on these factors.
What are the Health Effects of Microphallus?
The main effect of microphallus is issues regarding fertility, as they generally have a low sperm count, resulting in decreased fertility or infertility. People with microphallus also may have much difficulty urinating when standing, and having sexual intercourse, because of the small length of the genitalia. Due to the hormone deficiencies that generally cause micropenes, there are also a number of conditions and complications associated with the condition. These include Androgen insensitivity syndromes, Fryns syndrome, Fraser syndrome (also known as Meyer-Schwickerath's syndrome), Kallmann syndrome (often with un-descended testicles), Laron syndrome, Testicular dysgenesis, and 5α-reductase deficiency. There are also often many psychological problems that accompany microphallus, ranging from social anxiety and behavioural issues, to suicidal thoughts and severe depression.
How to Manage or Treat Microphallus
While treatments rang depending on the age and physical health of the patient, there are generally two treatments for microphallus: hormone therapy and surgical alteration. Hormone therapy is generally only performed on infants and children, and is a process in which the patient is injected with testosterone three times a month. Surgical options include both genitoplasty and gender reassignment surgery. Both of these treatments are very dependent on the patient’s physical and mental health, and should be heavily considered before being performed. Genitoplasty is when plastic surgery is performed on the genitals to reshape and resize them. Gender reassignment surgery is when surgery is done to restructure the penis into a vagina, or vice versa.