Priapism is a prolonged erection of the penis. The sustained erection lasts for hours or is not caused by sexual stimulation. Priapism is usually painful.
Although priapism is a rare disease overall, it usually occurs in certain groups, such as people with sickle cell anemia. Immediate treatment for priapism is usually needed to avoid tissue damage that can cause an erection not to be achieved or maintained (erectile dysfunction).
- The symptoms of priapism vary depending on the type of priapism. The two main types of priapism are ischemic and non-ischemic priapism.
- Ischemic priapism
Ischemic priapism, also called low-flow priapism, is the result of the inability of blood to leave the penis. This is the most common type of priapism. Signs and symptoms are:
- The erection lasts more than four hours or is unrelated to sexual interest or stimulation
The stem of the penis is rigid, but the tip of the penis (glans) is soft
Progressive penile pain
An erection usually occurs in response to physical or psychological stimulation. This stimulation causes certain smooth muscles to relax and increases blood flow to the spongy tissues of the penis. Therefore, the penis filled with blood is erected. After the stimulation is complete, blood flows and the penis returns to its non-rigid (flaccid) state.
Priapism occurs when part of this system – blood, blood vessels, smooth muscles, or nerves – changes normal blood flow and an erection persists. The underlying cause of priapism often cannot be determined, but several conditions can play a role.
Ischemic priapism can cause serious complications. Oxygen is withdrawn from the blood trapped in the penis. If an erection lasts too long, this deoxygenated blood can damage or destroy penile tissue. As a result, untreated priapism can cause erectile dysfunction.
If you have repeated priapism or stuttering to prevent future episodes, your doctor may recommend the following:
- Treatment of an underlying disease, such as sickle cell anemia, that may have caused priapism
- Use of oral or injectable phenylephrine
- Hormone Blocking Drugs – For Adult Men Only
- Use of oral medications to treat erectile dysfunction