Priapism refers to an erection, usually painful, that lasts for more than four hours and is not necessarily the result of sexual arousal. This condition develops when blood in the penis becomes trapped and unable to drain. The condition is most common between the ages of 5 to 10 years and 20 to 50 years.
Priapism needs to be treated immediately to avoid the likely outcome of permanent erectile dysfunction. Priapism does not usually resolve itself so medical attention is definitely required.
Causes of Priapism
Although up to one third of cases have no specific cause, other conditions causing priapism include:
Penis changes that cause priapism
In a normal erection the veins narrow and thats what makes the penis get bigger and hard. In priapism the veins do not relax after an orgasm so the penis remains erect and usually becomes very painful.
Diagnosis of Priapism
The doctor will ask about your medical history and examine you. He may do some tests, possibly an ultrasound or angiogram and blood tests.
Treatment of Priapism
Treatment is aimed at making the erection go, then treating the underlying cause, if one can be discovered. Treatment is usually in the form of injecting a decongestant medication, often following the draining of a small amount of blood from the penis to relieve pressure. A local anesthetic to numb the penis is usually given prior to this procedure.
Surgery will be required to restore normal blood flow if the cause is a ruptured artery. A surgical shunt for low flow priapism may be required. This is inserted into the penis to divert the blood flow and restore normal blood flow and function.
People with sickle-cell disease usually receive intravenous fluids and a transfusion of blood. If that fails to have the desired effect surgery may be required.
Some men experience semi-erect and painless erections. This is usually a result of trauma where too much blood flowing into the penis, rather than narrowed veins, is the cause. This can be treated via surgery or with a catheter threaded through blood vessels in the groin.
Importance of medical intervention for Priapism
Always seek treatment as quickly as possible to avoid any future problems of permanent erectile dysfunction.
Article Sources Include:
Penis Pain. ADAM
J Cherian, A R Rao, A Thwaini, F Kapasi, I S Shergill, R Samman, (20060 Medical and surgical management of priapism. Postgraduate Medical Journal 2006;82:89-94; doi:10.1136/pgmj.2005.037291
Priapism NHS Direct