Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Your penis is full of nerve endings, making it one of the most touch-sensitive parts of your entire body. Normally, that’s totally awesome.
As men, we need sensitivity to feel pleasure and to eventually reach orgasm and ejaculate. While some men might admit that their sensitivity can be too high sometimes, most guys would obviously prefer to experience too much pleasure than not enough.
Sometimes, though, you may see that worst-case scenario take place. It’s possible for your penis to experience a loss of sensation, reduced sensation or even numbness — and when penile numbness is severe, you may even find it difficult to develop and maintain an erection.
In other words, most men prefer their penis to have just the right amount of sensitivity, and a so-called numb penis is just not on anyone’s wish list.
If you’ve been experiencing some loss of sensitivity or numbness recently, you probably have a lot of questions. What am I feeling — or not feeling, for that matter? What caused me to feel it? How do I make it go away? Can I make it go away?
Below, we’ve answered these and other questions you might have about a numb penis, as well as what you can do to treat numbness and bring your penis’s sensitivity level back to normal.
Here’s the thing about a numb penis: it can be hard to describe. After all, numbness is the absence of sensation — how do you explain a feeling of absence?
A numb penis can happen differently for different men. You may notice that your penis feels less sensitive to touch, but this condition may also manifest as tingling sensations, burning or the pins and needles discomfort that you’ll probably most associate with a limb that has fallen asleep.
Guys aren’t generally used to experiencing this in their genitals, and you may not be expecting the associated side effects — specifically, severe penile numbness may affect your ability to get an erection and enjoy sex.
While symptoms of penile numbness can vary in type and severity, you may notice one or several of the following symptoms:
Loss of feeling in your penis, or a “pins and needles” sensation. Your penis might feel less responsive to touch than normal. It might feel unusually cold or have a tingling, pins and needles sensation.
Reduced sexual pleasure. Because your penis is less sensitive, you might find sex or masturbation less pleasurable. In some cases, you may feel nothing when your penis is touched, or during penetrative sex.
Erectile dysfunction. Because your penis is less sensitive, you may find it more difficult to get and keep an erection — a sure sign of erectile dysfunction — during sex or masturbation.
Delayed orgasm or anorgasmia. You may take a longer amount of time than normal to reach orgasm and ejaculate during sex, a condition called delayed ejaculation. In some cases, you might not be able to achieve orgasm at all (a condition called anorgasmia in men) due to reduced sensitivity and sexual pleasure.
So what causes numbness in the penis? What makes a man’s sensation decline, disappear or turn into stinging, tingling discomfort? Well, it turns out that a number of things may cause or contribute to this very unwanted outcome.
The most obvious and inclusive answer to this question is nerve damage, because it’s the nerves — specifically the pudendal nerve and those around it — that transmit sensation from your boner and other genitalia to your brain.
How those nerves are damaged, injured or interrupted is another conversation — it can happen in several ways, which we’ve explained below.
Perhaps the most straightforward explanation for numbness is a penile injury.
If your penis is injured or compressed for a long period of time, you may notice that it feels less sensitive than normal, the way your arm does after an hour of cuddling as the big spoon. In some cases, your penis may feel completely numb.
But it doesn’t take slamming your erection in a car door or dropping a heavy book to injure your manhood. Your penis can be injured during certain types of surgery — including some medical procedures to treat prostate cancer — or due to trauma to the perineal region.
Some sports and exercises can also cause your penis to feel numb in the same way that you might get a pinched nerve elsewhere on your body. For example, cyclists often experience penile numbness and erectile dysfunction, particularly those that ride long distances on a frequent basis.
A 2019 study of 2,774 male cyclists found that more than half the participants experienced some genital numbness, primarily in the penis. More years of riding, more frequent cycling, cycling longer distances, lower handlebars and not using padded shorts were all associated with more numbness, while body mass index and age were not.
The good news is that the researchers also found that penile numbness in participants wasn’t associated with erectile dysfunction.
Although cycling is arguably the most infamous sport for penile numbness, other sports that put pressure on your perineum might also cause a loss of sensitivity. Even sitting down in a position that puts extra pressure on your penis may temporarily cause numbness.
Most men associate their testosterone levels with hair volume, muscle mass and fertility, but testosterone is definitely associated with penile sensitivity. Specifically, low testosterone, which affects almost 40 percent of men 45 or older, may reduce the sensitivity level of your penis.
Low testosterone is also linked to a range of other sexual symptoms, including reduced erection quality, lower levels of sexual interest, reduced feelings of pleasure during sex and difficulties or delays in reaching orgasm. Our article on signs of low testosterone has details if you want to learn more.
Diseases and medical conditions that affect your nerves, like multiple sclerosis —or those that specifically damage the nerves in your groin and lower body — may cause you to develop numbness or reduced sensitivity in your penis and testicles.
A large variety of diseases and medical conditions can cause general nerve damage, including diabetes, autoimmune disorders such as lupus, metabolic disease, thyroid conditions, poor blood flow and certain forms of cancer.
Some nerve damage from diseases and medical conditions can be reversed. However, in some cases, disease-related nerve damage is difficult to treat or can become permanent. If you have any of these diseases and are experiencing reduced sensitivity, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Other medical conditions may reduce penile sensitivity by affecting the tissue of your penis. For example, Peyronie’s disease — a condition in which the penis can become curved — can cause scar tissue to develop on the penis, which may cause discomfort and affect sensitivity.
Finally, we need to talk about medications. Some guys who experiment with illicit or recreational drugs may already have their own anecdotal examples of numbness in their extremities, but there are plenty of prescription medications that could cause genital numbness too.
Several different types of medications can cause penile numbness. For example, numbness is a known side effect of certain antidepressants, as are other sexual side effects such as a reduced level of sexual excitement and difficulty reaching orgasm.
Selegiline, a medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease, is also known to cause a reduction in penile sensitivity.
If you suspect your medications may be causing a drop in your sensitivity, talk to a healthcare professional, but don’t discontinue the medication without their approval — a numb penis can be a bummer, but the side effects of stopping certain medications cold turkey could be far worse.
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Most cases of penile numbness can be treated by addressing the underlying conditions at fault, by modifying your use of medications or making other changes to your habits and lifestyle.
Once you’re in their hands, a healthcare provider will likely follow a certain process to address the problem. First, they’ll use your symptoms, medical history and more to narrow the potential causes until they think they have a culprit.
Once they think they have a cause identified, then they’ll suggest changes to your medications or lifestyle, or recommend treatments to deal with the problem.
Your treatment will vary depending on what’s causing your numbness, but it’s likely that it will follow one of these paths:
Treat underlying medical conditions. If you have a disease or medical condition that may affect your penis’s sensitivity level, it needs to be treated. Luckily, many diseases and medical conditions that cause penile sensitivity loss can be treated, improving both your general wellbeing and your sexual health.
Increase your testosterone production. If your penile sensitivity issues are caused by low testosterone, your healthcare provider may work with you to bring your testosterone levels back up to normal. This may involve testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) or other methods to increase your testosterone production. Our guide to increasing testosterone goes into more detail on the techniques you can use to improve your hormonal health.
Switch medications. If you’re prescribed a medication that’s associated with a loss of penile sensitivity, reach out to your healthcare provider to make sure they’re aware of your issues and ask to switch meds. Switching from one drug to another may decrease or get rid of sexual side effects — for example, many people prescribed antidepressants experience fewer sexual side effects when they start using medications such as bupropion. A healthcare provider can also adjust your dosage or make other changes to help with the side effects.
Avoid sports and activities that cause penile numbness. Your bike seat is not always your friend, so maybe stay off the bike, fellas. Sports like long-distance cycling are essentially infamous for leading to penile numbness and other crotch injuries, such as saddle sores. If you’re an unstoppable cyclist, try temporarily reducing your cycling distance to see if this improves your symptoms, or suck it up and buy a broad bicycle seat, which may be less likely to reduce blood flow to your penis and testicles while you ride.
Consider using ED medication. ED medications like Viagra® (sildenafil) and Cialis® (tadalafil) do not treat penile numbness, but if your numbness is reducing your erectile function, they may make it easier to get and keep an erection even with reduced sensation. Our guide to ED treatments and medications goes into more detail about what you can do to treat erectile dysfunction.
Penile numbness can be a frustrating annoyance, especially when it begins to affect your ability to get an erection and have sex. But guess what? It can also be a sign of serious illness or major health conditions.
Most of the time, a numb penis is treatable. If you notice that your penis feels less sensitive than normal, talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about your options for restoring sensitivity and preventing numbness from affecting your sexual performance.
To recap, here are the most important things to remember about a numb penis:
Don’t panic. A couple of occasions where your penis feels numb aren’t necessarily signs of sexual dysfunction, but a pattern might indicate something is wrong.
Figure out why. Numbness can be caused by a variety of factors, from injuries to the scrotum or penis to neuropathy. But your specific symptoms may help you figure out the cause. Men with erectile tissue damage can experience painful erections and reduced penis sensitivity for example, while people with neurological issues may experience neurological ED.
Plot a course of treatment. Making lifestyle changes (including biking less) and treating underlying conditions are some of the most effective ways of restoring sensation to your penis. If you have low testosterone, seek treatment options. You can also look into switching medications if yours may be reducing your sensation, like some antidepressants can do.
Consider some ED support. No erectile dysfunction treatments help with numbness, but if your numbness is causing you to struggle to stay hard, medications like sildenafil, tadalafil or our chewable ED meds hard mints could help.