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Understanding Priapism: A Critical Penile Disorder

Every man hopes for a healthy erection, but did you know that a painful and prolonged erection can harm your sexual health? Priapism is a penile disorder that can have serious consequences if left untreated. Let's explore this condition in more detail.

Erections are a natural response to sexual arousal, ensuring that you and your partner have an enjoyable experience while preventing overexertion. But what should you do if you experience a painful erection without any stimulation? The right course of action is to consult your urologist promptly.

Priapism is the term for a prolonged and painful erection that occurs without sexual arousal. Although it may not sound severe, if you are experiencing it, seeking medical attention is crucial.

Understanding Priapism

To gain a better understanding of priapism, let's delve deeper into this condition. Priapism is an uncommon penile disorder that can lead to erectile dysfunction, primarily affecting men with sickle cell disease, usually those in their 30s or older. However, it has also been observed in young boys with sickle cell disease. According to a study in the National Library of Medicine, sickle cell disease is a significant contributor to adult priapism cases, with rates ranging from 40% to 80%.

Priapism can manifest in two forms: low-flow and high-flow priapism.

  1. Low-flow priapism: This type occurs when blood becomes trapped in the erection chambers. It can affect otherwise healthy men and those with underlying conditions such as sickle-cell disease, leukemia, or malaria.

  2. High-flow priapism: This type is rarer and typically not painful. It results from a ruptured artery due to an injury to the penis or the perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus), disrupting normal blood circulation in the penis.

Causes of Priapism

There are numerous causes of priapism, including:

  • Blood-related diseases, such as sickle cell disease, leukemia, thalassemia, and multiple myeloma.

  • Medications, like those used for erectile dysfunction, antidepressants, alpha blockers, blood thinners, hormones, and drugs for ADHD.

  • Substance abuse, including alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

  • Trauma or injury to the penis, pelvis, or perineum.

  • Toxic infections from spider bites, scorpion stings, or other sources.

  • Metabolic disorders, such as gout or amyloidosis.

  • Neurogenic disorders, such as spinal cord injuries or syphilis.

  • Penile cancers.

Treatment for Priapism

The primary goal of treatment is to resolve the erection and prevent its recurrence. The choice of treatment depends on various factors, including the duration of the erection.

  • If treated within four to six hours, medications can help reduce the erection.

  • Decongestant medications can be used if the erection has lasted less than four hours.

  • Other treatments may include ice packs, surgical ligation, intracavernous injection, surgical shunt, and aspiration.

In Conclusion

Priapism is a painful and potentially critical penile disorder. An extended erection can be a dire situation, necessitating a visit to the emergency room. To avoid such situations, it's essential to refrain from alcohol and substance consumption that could lead to legal issues. Moreover, do not take any medications without a doctor's prescription, and if you do experience priapism, seek immediate medical attention.


Written by: Deepti Dogra

Edited by: Aniket Joshi

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