It's no secret that the penis changes as a man gets older, but how to control these changes and maintain optimum penis health is often something of a mystery. Unfortunately, not all boys are taught about the ins and outs of the penis, and as a result, they don't always understand how to care for it properly. By learning about how the penis develops over time, as well as the do's and don'ts of appropriate penis and foreskin care, men can avoid some common, yet unpleasant problems and maintain penile function well into the golden years.
The childhood penis
When a male infant is born, the glans, or bulb at the end of the penis, is covered by a specialized layer of skin, known as the foreskin or prepuce. While this skin is like the surrounding dermal tissue on the outside, the inside is more like the insides of the cheeks and mouth - it is actually a delicate mucus membrane, and not skin at all. As a matter of tradition, many parents elect to have their male children circumcised - a surgical procedure by which the foreskin is removed.
However, as this procedure is not deemed medically necessary, fewer parents are opting for removal of the prepuce. Contrary to what many believe, the uncircumcised infant penis does not require any specialized care. Cleaning the penis is as simple as bathing with soap and water; the foreskin should not be forced back, and nothing should be inserted underneath for the purpose of cleaning.
Over time, the membrane joining the foreskin to the glans will be shed naturally; small globules of skin will roll away, often accumulating underneath the foreskin. Again, there is no need to reach under an unretracted foreskin to clean these away. Forcing the sheath back can cause bleeding and scarring, which can result in adhesions that will cause problems later in life.
The penis during puberty
Most boys will be able to retract their foreskin fully by the age of about 5; however, for many children, this will not happen until later in the teen years, usually when a male begins to discover his own body. At this time, boys should be taught to wash away the smegma that has accumulated underneath.
Pubescent boys may begin to experience growth of the penis at this time and may gain their full size, although there is no need to worry if a 15 year-old does not have the appearance of a fully grown man. Many men continue to grow into their twenties, so there is no firm calendar date by which a male should expect to reach his full size.
The adult penis
As men age, the tone and texture of the penis skin may change, aging like the rest of the body. Along with thinning and wrinkling of the skin, the veins under the skin may become more prominent; and the worn nerve tissue may become less sensitive to touch. Circulation to the penis may also diminish, and in some cases, this may lead to some degree of penile shrinkage; excess abdominal fat may also obscure the penis, causing it to appear smaller than it really is.