Home Health Is my penis shrinking? About 50s sexual health questions answered

Is my penis shrinking? About 50s sexual health questions answered

It's one thing being unsure about sex in your teens and twenties, but by the time you hit middle age it's assumed you will know it all.

Yet a fifth of men and almost as many women about 50 have concerns about their sexual health. In part two of our exclusive guide, sex expert and author KATE TAYLOR answers the questions you are too embarrassed to ask …

Is it my imagination or is my penis shrinking as I get older?

There is no reason for the penis to decrease in size over your lifetime, but there are a couple of reasons why it might appear smaller as you age.

The first is that your scrotum can drip, which will make your penis look shorter.

Over the years, the muscle that raises and lowers the testicles can lose fitness and the skin can lose elasticity.

A fifth of men and almost as many women about 50 have sexual health concerns

This is usually harmless, but if you've developed noticeably low-hanging fruit, it's wise to see your GP for a condition called varicocele, which is a swelling of the veins around the testicles.

The other factor that can cause you to seem narrower is weight gain. As your lower abdomen gets larger, the base of your penis can be buried by a pad of fat. It's been estimated that for every four stone you gain, you'll lose around one inch or penis. Now there’s a motivator to get back in the gym.

I'm dating again in my fifties. Do I still need contraception?

In a word, yes. A study published in the Student British Medical Journal revealed that the number of STDs in 50 to 90 year olds has more than doubled in the past decade.

Post-menopausal women are most at risk from STDs, as physical changes make it harder for them to spot the early symptoms.

And people are most likely to be diagnosed with an STD within the first year of taking erectile dysfunction medication.

You definitely need to use condoms and have a full sexual-health check when you embark on a new relationship.

The good news is, condoms are thinner and more sensitive than ever before and available in a range of textures to please both of you. Try the Durex Surprise Me Variety Pack (£ 20 for 40 condoms) to find your favorite.

I have arthritis and suffer from joint pain and fatigue, but sex is still important to me. How can I make things more comfortable?

Stiff joints, depression and lack of lubrication are the main sexual issues for arthritis sufferers. Heat therapy can be effective in reducing pain and relaxing stiff, frozen joints, so ask your partner for a massage or perhaps share a bath.

After menopause you'll have to actively kick start your mojo

Arthritis Research UK suggests taking painkillers before sex, experimenting with other forms of sexual stimulation and making the most of days when your joints are less uncomfortable.

It also has a leaflet on its website (arthritisresearchuk.org) which offers advice on experimenting with different positions to find one that will be both comfortable and enjoyable, and suggested solutions for those with specific areas of pain.

Will I ever recover the libido that I lost during menopause?

Many women who feel they've lost their sex drive are really just missing the regular cycle or their libido. When you're younger, your sex drive naturally peaks around the time of ovulation, but when your cycle stops, you'll have to actively kick-start your mojo.

Try taking regular date nights with your partner, slowing down for more foreplay, and scheduling sex.

If you're still not in the mood, talk to your gynecologist to see if testosterone therapy might be a good fit.

Both men and women lose this hormone as they get older and it might be the solution to boosting your libido again.

I've been suffering from depression and my doctor has suggested I take antidepressants. Will they affect my sex drive?

Studies suggest some types or antidepressant can cause sexual side effects.

In particular it's believed SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), including paroxetine, citalopram and sertraline, may cause erectile dysfunction in men, a lowered sex drive and inability to orgasm in men and women.

Fish test positive for cocaine and anti-depressants
Studies suggest some types or antidepressant can cause sexual side effects

Talk to your doctor about your options, including trying a different class of antidepressant called NASSAs (noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants), which are thought to have fewer sexual side effects.

I have been diagnosed with prostate cancer – how will having my prostate gland removed affect my sex life?

The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland located behind the bladder that produces prostate fluid, a component or semen.

There are several treatments for prostate cancer, including prostatectomy – removal of the prostate gland.

After this surgery most people find it difficult to get an erection strong enough for sex. It can take anything from a few months to three years for erections to return and they may not be as strong as before.

Around half will never achieve natural erections again.

The best way to aid your recovery is through penile rehabilitation, which involves using medication and a vacuum pump to help with blood flow to the penis.

Early support and treatment is vital, as the effects can be much better managed if treated sooner, so anyone undergoing the surgery should ensure they explore all options with their medical team.

Prostate Cancer UK can offer information and advice, so go to prostatecanceruk.org or speak to one of their specialist nurses on 0800 074 8383.

Since my menopause, sex feels painful. Is there anything I can do?

One survey suggested 84% of menopausal women find intercourse painful. The most common reason is a decrease in estrogen, which can thin the lining of the vagina, leaving it less elastic and less lubricated.

As a first step, avoid washing with drying soap and shower gels, spend more time on foreplay, and use lubrication (like the water-based YES, £ 5.99, Lovehoney).

Do pelvic floor exercises and maintain your sex life because stopping sex can make things worse. If things don't improve, see your doctor, as HRT or a topical estrogen cream can relieve your symptoms.

Most sexual activity puts some strain on the heart

I'm a 50-year-old man and I've lost my mojo. Is there such a thing as the "male menopause"?

It's true that undergo hormonal changes as they age, with testosterone levels starting to decline at around 40, so by your fifties you can start to feel like you're losing your "oomph."

To combat this, you might look for temporary adrenaline rushes through alcohol, restarting a high-octane hobby like motorcycling, or loading up on responsibility at work – often labeled as suffering from a midlife crisis.

About time these things can cause additional stress which can lower your health and mood even more.

To regain your mojo, look to reduce your stress levels and focus on your health. Try a high-protein, low-carb diet, such as Tom Kerridge's Dopamine Diet, to improve things.

Cut back on alcohol and try a physical hobby with your partner, such as ballroom dancing.

All those Strictly love affairs aren't a coincidence: dancing has consistently proven itself to flood the brain with the sexy bonding hormone oxytocin.

I had a heart attack three weeks ago. My libido has returned, but would sex put too much of a strain on my heart?

According to the British Heart Foundation, you're usually able to start having sex again once you feel well enough, usually about four to six weeks after a heart attack, and it won't put you at further risk or having another.

Most sexual activity is about the same strain on the heart as walking up a flight of stairs. If you're worried, see your GP for reassurance.

You''re usually able to start having sex again once you feel well enough, usually about four to six weeks after a heart attack

I'm struggling to perform in the bedroom. What can I do?

If you can't achieve an erection through any stimulation, including masturbation, you might be suffering from erectile dysfunction.

Talk to your doctor to rule out any physical problems, as ED can be caused by a hardening of the arteries in the body which can heighten your risk of heart disease.

Also, discuss solutions, such as trying the drug Viagra.

If, however, you can still achieve an erection but it feels less reliable than before, you might be suffering from what is known as erectile dissatisfaction.

That's when it takes more effort to achieve erection, and it can disappear if you get distracted.

Erectile dissatisfaction can happen if you lose fitness, if your relationship becomes predictable, or you're tired.

In this case, a full life check-up is a good idea.

Spend more time on foreplay with your partner, reconnect emotionally, and look for ways to reduce your stress levels and boost your fitness.

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