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Male Enhancement: Is It Worth a Try?

Nonpresciption methods of male enhancement and male enlargement range from the possibly effective to the downright dangerous.

Links Between Sexual and Overall Health continued...

Sometimes men with erection problems or a diminished libido have low levels of testosterone, Boyle says. Testosterone deficiencies can also affect mood and energy levels. Boyle tests for testosterone levels and prescribes it as a topical gel, though she warns it is only safe when prescribed and monitored by a physician. Nonprescription testosterone, such as the kind used by some bodybuilders, is dangerous, she warns.

For men with performance issues who are physically healthy, Boyle often prescribes counseling, such as marriage counseling for men with relationship issues or psychiatric help for men who are preoccupied with a problem in penile appearance. For young men with sexual performance problems and no signs of physical problems, Boyle may prescribe counseling and a low dose of Viagra as they work out issues of insecurity. "They need reassurance from a physician that everything is OK," she says.

The Quest for a Bigger Penis

The FastSize Extender device promises results, but it's far from quick and easy. Just ask Bob, a retail manager from New Jersey. He says he's gained over 2 inches of erect length. All it took was 25 months and over 2,600 hours wearing the device, typically five hours a day, seven days a week. "I was afraid my girlfriend would think I was a freak, but she was supportive because she felt a difference in her satisfaction and I felt more confident in myself," Bob tells WebMD.

Richard, the mechanic from New York, got results faster than Bob, but still wore the device under his clothes for about eight hours a day. Richard's wife has also been supportive. "I see a more confident man in front of me from using this product," she says. She also says the lengthening has enhanced their sex life, though she had no complaints before.

Chicago urologist Laurence A. Levine, MD, director of the male fertility program at Rush University Medical Center, tested the FastSize Extender on 10 men afflicted with Peyronie's disease, which can cause bending and shrinkage of the penis. At the end of the six-month study, which was funded by the maker of the FastSize Extender, Levine found increased penile length and reduced curvature in every man and increased girth in seven of the men. Calling the results "remarkable," Levine now prescribes the device to many of his Peyronie's patients and reports no significant complications. (Levine has also worked as a paid consultant to FastSize Extender.)

Could FastSize work on men of normal penile length? Levine says it might. "If a woman can have a breast enlargement and it makes them psychologically feel better," he reasons, "then perhaps we should have the same thing for men."

Penis-lengthening surgery is also an option for men, but it is a highly controversial procedure. The American Urological Association says a common form of lengthening surgery (involving cutting the suspensory ligament of the penis) has not been shown to be safe or effective. The group also refuses to endorse surgeries that inject fat cells in the penis with the goal of increasing penile girth.

Many doctors question whether the benefits of lengthening surgery outweigh the risks. A 2006 study found that only 35% of men were satisfied with the outcome of surgery, which added only half an inch, on average, to length. Men who are overly preoccupied with penis length tend to have unrealistic expectations of surgery and should seek counseling instead, the authors wrote.

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