The world is full of of embarrassing conditions you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Every week, Carian discusses one. This week: buried penis syndrome.
Some men are born with a penis smaller than seven centimeters, also known as “micro penis”. But other men beware; normal size penises can still become inconspicuous during adulthood.
“Buried penis is a term that describes a penis of normal length that is buried below the surface of the pubic skin or within its own excessive shaft skin,” explains Detlev Erdmann of Duke Plastic Surgery.
“It can occur in children as a very rare congenital disorder, but most commonly it presents as an acquired condition during adulthood.”
The acquired condition can be caused by obesity, aging with an overlying fold of abdominal fat and skin, and a shortage of penile skin from chronic inflammation or an overly aggressive circumcision.
“Obesity is generally a partial contributor in many of the adult patients who are referred for buried penis syndrome,” says Erdmann. “As the skin and fat in the area above the pubic area increases, penile length is lost and the penis can appear to be buried.”
Preoperative appearance of buried penis, which had been circumcised at birth.
A penis buried under layers of skin and fat is not without its consequences. Erdmann: “Abdominal fat can hang over the penis, creating a moist environment conducive to bacterial and fungal growth. This environment creates a cycle of chronic infections, skin breakdown and chronic inflammation.”
Furthermore, the condition can lead to obstruction of urinary stream and inhibition of normal sexual function.
Luckily, reconstructive surgery can be offered to patients with a buried penis. “Over the course of treatment, the appearance of the penis and scrotum will be reconstructed,” says Erdmann. “Urination and sexual function will likely be restored, although long-term follow-up scientific studies are lacking.”
This condition is rare, but according to Erdmann the instances of buried penis are expected to rise as the epidemic of obesity becomes more prevalent in our society.