Diphallia is a rare genetic condition that occurs when a male child is born with penis duplication.
There are different types of diphallia, ranging from partial to full penile duplication. It is very rare to have two fully developed penises, or true diphallia.
Since the first description of diphallia in 1609, researchers have reported only 100 additional cases worldwide. One in every 5–6 million live births may occur.
This article takes a closer look at diphallia, including its symptoms, causes, effects on male life, and treatment options.
What is diphallia?
Each case of diphallia is unique, and the amount of duplication varies with each case. Most males with this condition will have two penises of the same size, located side by side.
Some males will have a larger penis above a second, smaller penis. For others, duplication only affects the head of the penis.
Earlier classification described the following three types of diphallia:
- a duplication of only the tip of the penis, or the glans
- bifid phallus, wherein each penis has only one column of soft tissue (the corpus cavernosum) instead of two, as is normally the case with true diphallia
- complete diphallia, wherein there is a complete duplication of the penis
However, the current classifications maintain that there are only two types of diphallia: true diphallia and bifid phallus.
Difallia usually occurs alongside other birth irregularities. These may include:
- a cleft scrotum
- hypospadias, wherein the opening to the urethra is on the underside of the penis, instead of the tip
- duplication of the urethra in both penises
- no urethras in either penis
- abnormal heart muscles
- two bladders
- a missing anus
- atypical muscles attached to the bones
- irregular positioning of the scrotum
- irregularities affecting the public bone
- misshapen, rotated, or extra kidneys
- complications of the kidney and colorectal systems
Males with diphallia are at higher risk of spina bifida. They’re also more likely to be sterile.
How does it happen?
Diphallia is a genetic condition which occurs while the fetus is developing.
During the genital growth the genetic irregularity that causes diphallia takes effect.
Some researchers suggest that exposure between the 23rd and 25th day of gestation to medications, infections or other damage may lead to diphallia, as this is a crucial stage of fetal development.
How does diphallia affect a male’s life?
Males with diphallia can often urinate through one penis, or both. We may also have erections, and they may ejaculate with one or both penises.
Depending on the situation, males with this disorder may have a normal sex life, and may have children.
However, the risk of poorly functioning kidney and colorectal systems is tending to increase. Because of this, children with diphallia may be at increased risk of death due to infections.
That said, if diphallia isn’t correlated with other symptoms, this may not be the case.
Surgery is the sole diphallia treatment option. However, treatment aren’t always necessary.
This operation is usually performed by a surgeon at birth or very soon after. The treatment can vary according to the amount of duplication and the existence of other birth abnormalities.
Because each diphallia case is unique, it can be complicated and difficult for the surgery to treat. The main preoccupations are:
- making sure that the male will be able to urinate normally and have erections
- reducing the potential risk of infection
- reducing structural irregularities
Due to the likely age of the male the timing of the surgery will be an important factor. Since doctors also diagnose diphallia at birth, multiple surgeries may be required over time.
People with diphallia often encounter certain birth anomalies, such as hypospadias, duplicated urethras and cryptorchidism (where one or both of these measures do not descend). Researchers report that in many cases surgeons can fix diphallia-associated physical abnormalities.
In one case, some of the infant’s abnormalities were identified by surgeons soon after birth but they only removed the additional penis when the child was a boy.
Males with diphallia do not always opt for treatment, as in a 54-year-old male whose doctor was diagnosed with diphallia during a hernia test. but the patient did not deem it necessary to remove the smaller penis.
Diphallia is a rare genetic birth irregularity where a male child is born with penile duplication. The overlap may either include the tip of the penis, or result in two penises that are entirely functioning.
If males are born with diphallia, they also often suffer from other birth abnormalities.
The only way to treat diphallia is to surgery. Over several stages surgeons will treat diphallia and other birth irregularities.
Males who have diphallia will lead stable and full lives.