Penis Exam | Urban Reproductive Health
The term penis exam is a term that refers to the examination of the general pelvic region and covers a wide range of concerns. In most cases, this examination is done as part of physical exams, be it the first time or routine. When a physician suggests that you get this exam, the target area they mean is the male genital and urinal systems, which include:
- The head of the penis.
- The shaft.
- The scrotum.
- The testicles.
Need for the Exam
Genital exams are, in most cases, not the most welcome of physical examination, regardless of gender, which is why some individuals may feel less inclined to submit for them. When administered by a clinician or physician, one gets a chance to have intimate knowledge of the male anatomical genitourinary system.
If the patient has done this examination, possible changes or abnormalities in their anatomy can be detected early and quickly, an act that can prove beneficial to redeeming your reproductive health. For the doctors, these exams also allow them to chart a strategy for the course of treatment. Alternatively, from the results, a doctor could implement a regimen in the case of complications related to the penis and associated parts.
What Conditions Warrant A Penile Exam?
Genitourinary system exams are not only valid for physicals; instead, they play a crucial role when it comes to making many diagnoses of various conditions that can affect the system. Possible situations that genital exams can diagnose are:
- Infections of the genitourinary tract.
- Benign prostate enlargement.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Prostatic malignance.
- Penial malignancy.
- Testicular malignancy.
- Damage of blood vessels.
- Tissue damage.
- Penile fibrosis.
When is the Best Time to Begin Genital Exams?
In most cases, examination of the genitals is unnecessary before puberty. However, in rare cases, conditions that affect the penis or rectum may appear early, necessitating penile exams before puberty. Once one hits puberty, due to the growth and changes associated with the genitalia, physical exams may become necessary, whether done by a doctor or self.
You may feel very uncomfortable letting a doctor examine you, or the doctor may be unavailable or inaccessible in some cases. Self-exams are recommended in these cases and usually follow specific parameters as summarized below:
- Relaxation. You should be physically relaxed, and the genitalia should not be sexually aroused. Ease means that you should not be either half or fully erect as the tightness may hamper some observations from being made.
- For the testicles, ensure that your hands are not cold and the temperature outside does not prevent them from descending. Hold the scrotum in such a way that the testicles remain in place, ideally by lightly pinching the upper part of the scrotum.
- The inspection process can include using the digits and the thumb to palpate the whole exterior of the individual testis. The objective is to feel any hard tissue or lumps. The sizes of abnormal lumps range from the measurement of a grain of rice to that of a grape. One should know how the epididymis feels because it can be easily mistaken for growth when the etiology is unknown.
- For the penis, you should thoroughly inspect and palpate the head and shaft to ensure that there are no masses, stiffness, or tenderness on the penis. Lesions on the surface or any damaged tissue should be noted. You should pull it back for those with a foreskin and ensure no abnormal growths or appearances from what you usually see.
The idea of a self-exam is that if you find nothing out of the ordinary, taking action is unnecessary. However, if something is not right, seeking medical attention and help is highly recommended. In some conditions, such cancers as mentioned before, initial detection is essential if any further complications are to be countered early.
Frequency of Self-exams
If you plan to detect any possible complications early, you should do self-examinations as frequently as possible to increase familiarity with your anatomy. The best recommendation is once monthly because it is easy to notice any changes that may occur within that period if you have an intimate knowledge of your genital anatomy.
Are Clinical Exams Necessary?
For people who do self-exams in the recommended frequency, the urge to see a doctor for the same exam may not be as strong, especially if they do not detect anything out of the ordinary. However, it is recommended that you see a doctor regardless of how often you self-examine. Doctors are better trained to diagnose any possible conditions beyond common knowledge, making them better equipped to make more sophisticated diagnoses and recommendations.
The Attending Doctor
A medical doctor is qualified and licensed to perform physical exams, including genital exams. You can either ask the doctor to complete the exam or advise how best to self-examine. In the case of complications, a primary care doctor or general physician may recommend a visit to a specialist in the genitourinary system, otherwise known as a urologist.
Predictably, a medical assessment is more detailed and more conclusive than a self-exam. Ideally, many tests are carried out during a medical exam and often incorporate all or some of the following:
- Physical exam.
- Mental health check.
- Various laboratory tests such as blood work and urine tests.
- Injection testing is done to test for erectile function or dysfunction.
- Overnight erection tests are done to determine the possible cause of erectile dysfunction.
Clinical examination is recommended at least once a year and can be done when one goes for any routine or yearly physicals. For young adults, such as young adolescent males, a chaperone should be present. With a chaperone present, it is easier for them and their guardians to observe and confirm that the clinical examination is professionally done. Also, it avoids legal implications associated with the sensitivity of a penile exam on a minor.
Is an Erection Necessary During Clinical Examination?
Similar to the self-exam, an erection might interfere with the accuracy of results in a medical assessment. It is unnecessary doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. On the contrary, it is likely to occur if the doctor continually touches the genital area during examination.
As you get older, the risk of prostate cancer increases, which means that prostate exams become a norm at some point for more aged individuals. For those who are 55 years or older, prostate exams may be recommended and necessary for prevention purposes. However, this exam is not vital and is only done if you have real concerns about the possibility of prostate cancer. Prostate exams come in two forms, digital rectal exams and antigen-specific tests.
Digital Rectal Exam
The digital exam is where the doctor uses their fingers to carry out the examination and involves several steps:
- You bend over or lie in the fetal position with the knee joint at the chest level.
- The doctor uses lubricated gloves and tenderly inserts a digit into the rectum.
- The doctor gently palpates the prostate area while keeping the other palm pressed on the front pelvis area. This step is perhaps the most uncomfortable, and you may also get the impulse to urinate.
The prostate-specific antigen examination is an assessment of the blood to determine the presence of an antigen. The results should reflect as follows:
- Typical levels should be less than four nanograms per ml (ng/ml).
- Transitional levels should be 4-10 ng/ml.
- High levels are more than 10 ng/ml.
This antigen test is not definitive and is only used while taking into consideration other results. The samples for the various tests can be taken by taking swabs from multiple sources. Sources of samples include the urethral opening, rectum, or the general area of the genitalia.
Possible Results of Examination
For a healthy person, there should be no lesions on the penis and surrounding areas. Any discharges that are not considered normal such as urine or semen, should not be observed in a healthy person. Swellings and discolorations are absent in a healthy person, meaning that either should be considered an abnormality. The testes should be descending or hanging bilaterally without any abnormal masses being felt within the scrotal sac.
Hernias are part of the examined aspects; thus, the presence of an inguinal or femoral hernia is considered a severe condition and should be absent in a healthy individual. For uncircumcised people, the prepuce is easily retractable; anything that interferes with the said retraction is considered an abnormality. The epididymis should not be tender in any way. Any tenderness is indicative of an underlying condition or unhealthy posturing.
Possible situations that the rectal exam could test include malignancies of the prostate or other growths that may be felt within the rectum. Ensuring that you are completely relaxed during an exam is the best way to have your doctor make a specific diagnosis. Therefore, one should try to dispel any feelings of discomfort or embarrassment that may interfere with the same.
Rectal and bladder tone, referring to the sphincters’ effectiveness that control voiding of the rectum and urinary bladder can also be determined during the exam. If you have a problem with keeping in urine and stool or getting them out, this examination can help you assess the root causes.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections can be diagnosed as part of the exam routine, whether it is through direct observation such as discharges and lesions or laboratory tests. Yeast or fungal infections can also be discovered in some cases. As long as the doctor knows what to look for, clinical exams should yield more specific results. The number of possible complications is sheer in scope, some of them profound, others benign, and may range from penile papules to warts and Candida infections.
What Next After the Clinical Exam?
The next step is dependent on whether the doctor discovers any possible conditions and may involve:
- Referral to a urologist or other specialist for specialized exams or diagnosis if the attending doctor is uncertain.
- Further tests may be carried out for conditions that are considered abnormal growths or that require specialized tests such as sexually transmitted infections.
- The doctor or specialist can give prescription medicine to manage symptoms of dysfunctions or abnormalities where feasible. In cases of incontinence and sexually transmitted infections, practical medical courses should be sought and implemented.
- You may be sent for therapy or counseling if any discovered abnormality or illness is determined to be caused by emotional or psychological stress.
Genital and rectal exams are invasive by most standards. Most people may feel uncomfortable with them. However, these tests have been proven to be very effective ways of making some definitive diagnoses, which makes them recommended despite their nature.
You can do most of the observations guided in the exams privately and without the need to feel embarrassed. Clinical examination is recommended every once in a while because some of the exams require a bit of technical know-how and may end up saving your reproductive health system and health in general.
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Kevin Reynolds is an avid health fan and founder of Urban Reproductive Health. A website aimed to help bring more awareness to men’s health. Kevin has studied medical and nutrition science since an early age and holds a BA in Holistic Health. Kevin has been featured in major publications for his studies on men’s health and fitness. When Kevin is not working he loves to exercise and go to the beach.
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