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HealthInfo Canterbury

About your penis

Penis anatomy1Penises come in all shapes and sizes but they're all fundamentally the same. The main part of your penis (called the shaft) is made up of sections of sponge-like material, called corpus cavernosa, that fill with blood when you are sexually aroused. This is what causes an erection.

A tube called the urethra runs through your penis. This carries urine from your bladder. It also carries semen when you ejaculate.

The head of your penis is called the glans. It is dome-shaped. The urethra ends at the glans with a hole called the meatus.

When boys are born, their glans is covered in a sheath of skin called the foreskin. At first this is very tight. It cannot, and should not, be pulled back in babies and young boys. As a boy gets older this skin will usually start to loosen so that their foreskin slides easily over the glans.

It's important to keep your penis clean and healthy, so you don't get any infections or off-putting problems.

But washing your penis too much with soap and shower gels can make it sore. This is because soap can strip your skin of its natural balance of oils and healthy skin bacteria (which protect it).

In general, gently washing your penis (including under your foreskin, if you have one), once a day with warm water is enough to keep it healthy. If you want to use soap, choose a mild or non-perfumed soap or a soap alternative, so you don't get irritated skin.

The links below give more information and answer most of the questions guys have about their penises.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Urology, Canterbury DHB. Updated March 2016.

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Review key: HIPEH-223783