COVID-19: US man claims his penis shrunk 1.5 inches after infection, studies say it's possible

Preppy guy looking in in his paints with magnifying glass, stock image
The man unfortunately got the short end of the stick. Photo credit: Getty Images

We've all heard of long COVID, but one man's battle with the illness has left him with a decidedly shorter symptom.

After suffering a severe bout of COVID-19 last July, the US man began experiencing a strange side effect - erectile dysfunction. 

While his impotence was eventually remedied over time, the man soon discovered that he'd got the short end of the stick.

Speaking on the sex-themed podcast How To Do It, the victim - a heterosexual man in his 30s - revealed that his penis had contracted considerably after recovering from the virus.

"When I got out of the hospital, I had some erectile dysfunction issues. Those gradually got better with some medical attention, but I seem to be left with a lasting problem," he told the podcast. 

"My penis has shrunk. Before I got sick, I was above average; not huge, but definitely bigger than normal. Now I've lost about an inch-and-a-half and become decidedly less than average."

The man said the affliction is likely due to vascular damage in his erectile tissue.

"My doctors seem to think it's likely permanent," he continued.

"It shouldn't really matter, but it has had a profound impact on my self confidence in my abilities in bed."

The possibility of coronavirus impacting penile function was first studied last year, with researchers discovering that former patients had evidence of blood vessel damage in their appendages. 

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine studied two men who had become impotent after contracting COVID-19 six to eight months prior. According to the study, published on May 7, 2021 in the World Journal of Men's Health, the team and their electron microscope discovered coronavirus particles in samples of their penile tissue.

Further study revealed both former patients had evidence of blood vessel damage in their penises, compared to two other men with erectile dysfunction who had never contracted the virus.

"We found that the virus affects the blood vessels that supply the penis, causing erectile dysfunction," senior researcher Dr Ranjith Ramasamy, director of the reproductive urology programme at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, said at the time

"The blood vessels themselves malfunction and are not able to provide enough blood to enter the penis for an erection... we don't think this is a temporary effect. We think this could be permanent."

The study found that the virus can remain present in the penis "long after the initial infection in humans", suggesting "widespread endothelial cell dysfunction from COVID-19 infection can contribute to resultant erectile dysfunction".

However, the doctors noted that further research is required.

A study of 3400 people by researchers at the University College London also found that a shortened penis was a rare symptom among those who developed long COVID.

According to the findings, which were published in the Lancet's EClinicalMedicine, almost 5 percent of men suffered a "decrease in size" of the testicles or penis, with around 15 percent of men reporting sexual dysfunction.

It transpires that penis problems post-COVID can also go the other way, with urologist Dr Charles Welliver - director of Men's Health at Albany Medical College in New York - telling the podcast that a prolonged erection is another possible symptom.

"Studies have actually shown that guys can get priapism - the prolonged erection that is dangerous in its own right - and guys can also get erectile dysfunction from COVID, so it can kind of go both directions," he said.

"When guys get ED, they get a lack of erections for a while, and when that happens they actually do get some shrinkage."

Dr Ashley Winter, a urologist based in Oregon, also agreed that the man's claims were legitimate. 

"It's true that having erectile dysfunction leads to shortening," she told the podcast. "You have this period of time where the penis is not stretching itself out, where it's not, you know, getting all this full blood into it, and that can lead to scarring of the penis and shortening of the penis.

'''COVID d**k' is a real thing."

However, there is hope. Both Dr Welliver and Winter insisted that rehabilitative treatments could help the man's affliction.

The urologists advised that stretching the penis through exercises or devices, such as a vacuum pump, is a common technique that could restore lost length over time.