by Ruchi Shah and Mallory Locklear
Recently, a man going by the nickname “Diphallic Dude” took part in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session that centered around his rare condition—diphallia, a medical condition wherein a male is born with two penises.
One in 5.5 million people are affected, and only around 100 cases have been reported since the first known occurrence in the year 1609.
The condition includes a range of effects, from duplication of the glans, or “head” of the penis, alone to complete penile duplication.
When complete diphallia occurs, the function of each penis can also vary greatly. In some cases, one penis is significantly underdeveloped compared to the second and in other cases, both penises are fully functional.
Diphallic Dude is in the latter group, with two fully functional penises. As reported in his Reddit AMA, he can urinate and ejaculate from both.
Even more interestingly, as stated on his tumblr page, once he ejaculates with one penis, he can immediately move on to the other and is able to “go a few hours, having orgasms roughly every five to 10 minutes.”
As far as complications go, Diphallic Dude has had few. When he was in his teens, he had a minor urethral issue. Since he has two fully developed penises, his urethra, or the tube that transports both semen and urine out of the penis, splits internally, creating a “Y” shape.
A problem developed where the urethral fork began ballooning during urination until enough pressure built up for urine to travel through the urethra and out of the penis.
Minor surgery was done to stretch the urethra and correct the problem. Recently, Diphallic Dude stated on tumblr that this issue has reoccurred and a similar procedure will need to be done in the near future.
Because it is such a rare condition, little is known about the cause of diphallia or even its development. Savannah Irving, a medical student at the University of Dundee questioned, “If it’s linked with other anomalies in fetal formation it seems it may not be completely compatible with life.”
Whereas this effect is unconfirmed as of now, many cases of diphallia do coincide with other medical complications.
In those with complete diphallia, or full penile duplication, infant death rates tend to be higher. This is often due to infections in their more complex kidney and/or colon and rectal systems.
Diphallia also coincides with spina bifida, a severe developmental disorder wherein portions of the spinal cord are underdeveloped and the vertebrae do not close as they should.
Scientists think diphallia may occur when some sort of external stress hampers the developmental stage where fetal tissue separates into what will separately become the penis and rectum. Further, because each case of diphallia is different, treatments must be tailored to each individual patient.
Diphallic Dude has embraced both members and has only needed minor treatments, though others are not so lucky.
Similarly, duplication of female reproductive and urinary systems has also been observed. This duplication, referred to medically as uterus didelphys, has varying levels of severity. Some women have two vaginas, while others have two vaginas, cervixes, and uteruses.
According to the World Health Organization, about one in 3,000 women have duplicated reproductive systems, equating to a larger percentage of the population than previously thought.
The prevalence may be even higher because both sets function normally and thus the duplication often goes unnoticed. Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, director of maternal fetal medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said to ABC News, “It’s not that crazy at all, even though it sounds like a sci-fi thing. We see many couples, maybe once a month or more.”
Recently, there has been heightened publicity about uterus didelphys after features on ABC News, ITV’s “This Morning” and TLC’s “Strange Sex.” In 2012, Hazel Jones, a 27-year old woman with a fully duplicated reproductive system, openly discussed her medical condition. On “This Morning,” she shed light on living life with double the equipment and even quipped that is it, “an ice-breaker at parties.”
Jones was diagnosed at the age of 18 after visiting a doctor for extremely painful menstrual cramps. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms include, “unusual pressure or cramping pain before or during a menstrual period and abnormal bleeding during a period, such as blood flow despite the use of a tampon.”
However, since these symptoms are difficult to distinguish from those that normally accompany many women’s menstrual cycles, uterus didelphys is confirmed using diagnostic imaging tests like an ultrasound.
This duplicated reproductive system arises from an error during development. In a developing embryo, the uterus, cervix, and vagina normally start out as two tubes that fuse as the fetus develops.
However, in those with uterus didelphys, the tubes did not fuse correctly, leaving duplicated structures. While doctors are uncertain of the cause behind this malfunction, most women have full function of both structures. As a result, there have been women who carry one child in each of their uteruses. A woman named AMS further told ABC News that she, “lost [her] virginity twice.”
While this duplication is not life-threatening, the presence of two uteruses in the space of one can lead to complications for conception, childbearing and birth.
Common treatment options include birth control pills, fertility treatments and, if needed, surgery to unite the two uteruses. Most women, however, live normally and enjoy the function of both of their reproductive sites.