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What are the Common Causes of Penis Swelling?

Alex Tree
Updated May 17, 2024
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Penis swelling is generally caused by an injury to the penis, erection, or phimosis if the man is uncircumcised. While the penis is not injured nearly as often as other body parts, it still occasionally experiences trauma due to things like automobile accidents, sexual activity, or sports. Another potential cause of penis swelling is an erection, which can happen for many reasons other than sexual arousal, like needing to urinate, being asleep, or even death. Lastly, complications of a phiomosis case, a health condition that causes the foreskin not to retract, can lead to swelling of the penis. These causes are all quite common and in general are not life-threatening or untreatable.

The development of an erection includes the penis becoming swollen and typically leads to a marked increase in girth, length, and firmness. Penises often become erect due to sexual arousal or stimulation, but there are a few other possible reasons for the development of an erection. When a person is asleep, the penis typically becomes erect a few times during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycles, though nocturnal erections can also be caused by conscious or unconscious sexual interaction with a sleep partner. Another cause of erections and penis swelling that can happen while asleep or awake is a full, or near full, urinary bladder. Death can sometimes result in an engorged and swollen penis and is often associated with pressure on the brain, spinal cord, and quick deaths.

Phimosis is a condition wherein the foreskin of a penis cannot be retracted. The condition itself does not cause penis swelling, but complications that sometimes occur may result in swelling and pain. Phimosis is normally cured with creams, manually stretching the foreskin, or circumcision. This condition can only present itself when a male has foreskin, so men who were circumcised at birth or any other time before experiencing penis swelling are suffering from another condition.

Penile injuries can cause a great deal of swelling depending on the severity of the damage. One common cause of penis swelling is the result of an injury during sexual activity. For example, if bent too sharply, a penis can become fractured, which is typically accompanied by a popping sound and pain. Swelling and bruising will usually follow, and treatment via surgery is normally recommended. This type of surgery may require a day or two in the hospital and a follow-up appointment with a doctor once the patient is released.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and WiseGeek contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
Discussion Comments
By SeanH — On Aug 07, 2015

A bacteria buildup caused my tight foreskin. I had to make sure I cleaned it out every day. My doctor also told me to use a penis health creme that contains Vitamin A as extra defense against leftover bacteria. Since I have been doing these two things, my foreskin is a lot more loose and I am a much happier man.

By anon989307 — On Mar 01, 2015

Can a swollen penis be caused by having sex with someone who has STD's? My boyfriends' penis has been red on the head for a month or so, and for about two weeks, under the head of his penis is swollen.

By anon979700 — On Nov 28, 2014

While getting aroused and my penis is stiffening there becomes a slight swelling around the center area, all the way around the penis. In other words, the circumference is the same at the base and the top but larger near the middle. Whoa!

By anon949948 — On May 07, 2014

I am 14 and have masturbated last night and the night before. I do at most one time a day, and don't go too hard. I came home from school and saw that my foreskin was enlarged dramatically. I rolled my foreskin down, and there was an excessive amount of bulge and skin. Is this normal? I am worried. Please respond.

By anon359306 — On Dec 16, 2013

My penis is swollen, but it's not itchy and it's not hurting. I've read it may be because of masturbating too long. I hope it is. Help.

By anon351706 — On Oct 16, 2013

I have had a tight foreskin for a while now, not being able to pull my foreskin back. Masturbating has been sore. I used E45 cream on my penis and was masturbating. A few hours after I felt a soreness and checked my penis and the foreskin is swollen. By all that I read it seems like I may have caused Balanitis or it may just be be irritation by masturbation. Could the E45 cause an irritation? What should I do now?

By anon349207 — On Sep 24, 2013

The external portion of my penis and bladder are swelling, itching and hurting. Please give me a remedy.

By anon325173 — On Mar 14, 2013

I was going to school (I'm 11) and I bumped into the inside out corner. It started swelling an hour later. It was like a balloon. Please help will it go away by itself or do I need to see the doctor?

By anon269852 — On May 20, 2012

In previous month I almost had an erection every night while sleeping. After talking to people I realized that it's healthy for a boy of my age (22 years). The problem is from last week I am having no erections at night. This is making me worried. I feel I am physically weak now. Please help!

By blackDagger — On May 05, 2011

@Oscar23 – Hey, man. No need to be all embarrassed with your lady doctor – no doubt, she’s been asked a lot more awkward questions than this one. I get it though – this topic is just a man thing.

I would say that if you are normal in every other way and are experiencing no other odd symptoms that you are good to go. On the other hand, if you are having other difficulties or if you are not circumcised, better to ere on the side of caution, my man. Nobody wants penis problems, right?

By oscar23 — On May 04, 2011

Well, I might have made a joke or two in my life about having a broken penis, but I didn’t know it was actually possible. But, what I actually was curious about is whether or not being swollen with no particular or obvious reason at all is possible? Occasionally, I’m just going along and…well, there it is. Should I be concerned? Is this normal or some sort of odd medical symptom? I’m a little embarrassed to go to my doctor – she’s a she, and no matter how evolved we are, that’s just embarrassing.

Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and WiseGeek contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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