Most people think of Botox as a cosmetic drug that does just one thing—it temporarily reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the face by paralyzing the underlying muscles. As it turns out, Botox can do so much more: In recent years, doctors have found that it can be useful for treating a wide range of medical conditions, including chronic migraine headaches, an overactive bladder, excessive sweating, and even crossed eyes.
But that's not all. Botox, it turns out, also has the potential to help men who have concerns about the appearance and function of their penises. Here are three surprising things Botox can do down there.
It can increase flaccid penis size.
A recent survey of more than 4,000 US men found that guys' biggest complaint about their genitals was the length of their flaccid (non-erect) penises. More than one-quarter of respondents wanted theirs to be longer.
For a man who wishes he was more of a "shower," there aren't a whole lot of options on the market, short of expensive and risky surgical procedures and stretching devices that need to be worn several hours per day for months on end. Botox, however, could change that.
In a 2009 study, researchers used Botox to try and help guys who had a "hyperactive retraction reflex." In other words, these were men who experienced a lot more "shrinkage" (in the words of George Costanza) than others. Doctors made four injections around the base of the penis, with the goal of paralyzing the muscles responsible for the shrinkage reflex, known as the tunica dartos. And it worked.
Average flaccid size was about half an inch larger after the injections, and the guys didn't shrink as much in response to cold temperature. Most participants were happy with the outcome. However, it's important to note that erect size didn't change, and the effects were temporary—they lasted up to six months. So this isn't a one-shot deal—it's something you'd need to do at least a couple of times per year, just like if you were treating forehead wrinkles.
It might help guys last longer in bed.
Premature ejaculation is the most common sexual problem reported by men. There are tons of treatments out there for it already, including "delay sprays," Kegel exercises, and behavioral methods like the stop-start technique, but Botox might be another viable option in the near future.
In a 2014 study, researchers injected Botox into the bulbospongious muscle of male rats. This muscle sits at the base of the penis (see here) and is involved in ejaculation. Using Botox to paralyze this muscle can make sex last longer: For rats that received a placebo shot, their average time to ejaculation was six and a half minutes, compared to ten minutes for those that got a full dose of the drug.
There's a clinical trial underway right now to see if it works just as well in humans. We should know the results later this year, which will also tell us whether or not repeat doses are required, or if a single treatment might be enough for guys to learn more ejaculatory control.
It could help treat erectile dysfunction, too.
A new paper published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine argues that Botox could be a "game changer" when it comes to treating erectile dysfunction (ED). The thought here is that Botox could be used to paralyze the smooth muscles inside the erectile chambers of the penis. By relaxing these muscles, blood should be able to flow into the penis more easily.
A small study conducted in Egypt that was reported last year provided some initial support for this idea: Men with ED who received a Botox injection demonstrated improvements in penile blood flow. One patient, however, experienced priapism afterward—a prolonged erection that wouldn't go away on its own. This tells us that dosage is going to be very important: Too much muscle relaxation isn't a good thing.
Larger clinical trials should be underway soon, but in the meantime, it's important to highlight that any effects are going to be temporary and that once the Botox wears off, erectile difficulties will return because those muscles will start contracting and impeding blood flow again. Although it's not a permanent fix, Botox could be more appealing to some guys than Viagra due to convenience: Rather than popping a pill every time they want to have sex, they could just get a couple of shots per year.
While scientists will undoubtedly continue to explore these and other effects of Botox on the penis, this doesn't necessarily mean patient demand will follow. Indeed, we don't know yet how many men are actually going to take advantage of these discoveries in the future. After all, if you want to experience any of the benefits of "bonetox," you have to be cool with someone sticking a needle in your junk.
Justin Lehmiller, PhD is the Director of the Social Psychology Program at Ball State University, a Faculty Affiliate of The Kinsey Institute, and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @JustinLehmiller.