Your penis is just humming along as normal. But then something happens, and you’re suddenly quite aware of some pressing below-the-belt issues.
Some penis problems are more common than others. For instance, some degree of erectile dysfunction affects an estimated 40 percent of men by the age of 40
Other issues that affect your penis can be, well, a little more out of the ordinary. Maybe it’s a feeling, like discomfort or flat-out pain, or maybe things down there are just looking a little different than last time you checked.
So, what are some things that can go wrong with your junk? Let us count the ways.
Yep, it’s a thing. But you may actually like that description more than other terms for it, like “fractured penis” and “torn penis.”
Here’s what happens when you break your penis: You put a significant amount of pressure on the ol’ boy—usually during some vigorous sex—and you hear a pop, followed by intense pain. That’s due to pressure overload, which tears the delicate lining of the tissue on your penis that expands when you get an erection.
“You zig when you should have zagged,” explains Kevin McVary, M.D., chairman and professor of the urology department at Southern Illinois University. “That causes a tear in the tissue and, soon after, a large bruise under the skin that’s the color of an eggplant. We’d consider that an emergency.”
That means you need to swallow any embarrassment you may have and get to the ER and have the tear sewn up, Dr. McVary advises. It’s an easy fix, but if you wait too long, scar tissue can build, and that leads to the next threat to your junk…
CURVES AND BENDS
Known as Peyronie’s disease, this condition occurs when scar tissue builds up on the inside lining of the penis. Nearly every guy will have some scarring by the time they’re elderly, just from, shall we say, consistent usage.
While the scarring isn’t usually an issue in itself—it’s rarely painful during everyday activities—you’ll notice that when you spring into action, things can get a little bent. Literally.
“Scars don’t elongate,” Dr. McVary says. “So, when you get an erection, the penis will shorten on the side where the scars are. One side will expand more than another. That causes a curve.”
Now, a slight curve in your penis doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem, and there’s no specific curvature that signals Peyronie’s disease, according to the American Urological Association. It’s more telling if you noticed a sudden change in your penis curve, or if it’s causing you any problems or discomfort, as we reported.
McVary has seen dramatic curves, including a “ram’s horn” that was about 90 degrees. Without treatment, it can get worse, but the good news is that if it’s not bothering you and your sexual partner, it may be a non-issue. It might even go away.
About 15 percent of Peyronie’s cases resolve on their own within a year, Dr. McVary says. But if you’re feeling distress, a physician can do injections with an enzyme that breaks down scar tissue.
SPIDER VEINS IN YOUR BALLS
Putting the words “spider” and “balls” so close to each other is enough to make anyone freak, but Dr. McVary says it’s more like seeing or feeling a bag of worms. (So, that’s…better?)
Called varicocele, this condition doesn’t have a definitive cause, Dr. McVary notes, and it’s actually more common than you think. Your testicles have a network of veins and some of those degrade over time, which changes the pressure and dilates the other veins.
Varicoceles are diagnosed by stage. Some cases are detected only by ultrasound while some, Dr. McVary says, could be seen “from across the room.”
Just because this happens doesn’t mean it has to be fixed, but a physician can help determine if it’s negatively impacting your fertility. That can happen since the veins’ dilation raises the temperature of the testicle, impacting sperm production. To fix it, a doctor would simply tie off the affected veins, and blood flow would be diverted to healthy veins.
RELATED: Is My Penis Normal?
A SUPER PAINFUL, SMALL BLUE DOT
Also a potential danger to your testicles is appendix testis, a small and benign nubbin about the size of a BB that hangs off the top of the testicle—if that little nub gets twisted, it can lose its blood supply and start to die, according to Daniel Saurborn, M.D., at Stanford University Healthcare. It’ll appear as a tiny blue dot just under the skin.
One thing is for sure: It often hurts like hell.
“It feels like your entire testicle is breaking off,” he says. “There’s no doubt you’ll feel like you’ve got a medical emergency.”
The dot comes up because there’s a loss of oxygen to part of the testicle, he says. Without oxygen, blood in the area turns blue.
Fortunately, it tends to last only a few hours, or up to a couple days at the most. Treatment is usually just pain medication and plenty of sympathy. The condition is different from actual testicular torsion, in which the entire testicle gets twisted. In that case, head for the ER.
A SWELLING SCROTUM
Many men have a small amount of fluid—called hydroceles—around their testicles, and it’s a non-issue.
But when that fluid amount changes due to conditions like cancer, infection, or inflammation, then the scrotum can fill up enough to cause discomfort. One common cause is an STD like gonorrhea.
Related: 4 STDs You Might Already Have
“In diagnosis, you can take a flashlight and actually shine it through the scrotum, and it looks like a water balloon,” says Dr. Saurborn.
As fun as that sounds, you can usually deflate that balloon with antibiotics, he notes.
With all of these conditions, it’s best to get checked out if you’re seeing changes with your junk or especially if pain and discomfort are happening. In many cases, there are easy fixes, so see your doctor if looking down makes you think of eggplants, worms, or water balloons.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health