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Disorder of the Penis: Priapism

By HERWriter
 
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The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center defines priapism as an uncommon condition that causes long-lasting and often painful erection unrelated to sexual stimulation.

Unlike normal erection where the penis first fills with blood and then drains out, Columbia University’s Go Ask Alice column says priapism occurs when blood is unable to drain normally. The blood becomes stagnant and starts losing oxygen. Without oxygen, red blood cells become stiff, making proper drainage even more problematic.

Ischemic priapism is the most common. Sufferers endure several hours or days of painful unwanted erection. Cleveland Clinic says it’s the result of blood being trapped in the erection chambers. Mayo Clinic says symptoms include a rigid penile shaft and often soft penile tip; long-lasting erection unrelated to sexual stimulation or persistent after stimulation; and usually painful or tender penis.

Non-ischemic priapism isn’t as common or painful. Cleveland Clinic says it’s the result of a ruptured artery from an injury to the penis or the perineum (area between the scrotum and anus), which prevents blood in the penis from circulating normally. Other than unwanted erection unrelated to sexual stimulation, Mayo Clinic says symptoms include erect but not rigid penile shaft.

Go Ask Alice writes that most cases of priapism have clear medical explanations. Penile drug injections can lead to priapism, especially if the dose is higher than recommended. Alcohol or illicit drug abuse and certain drugs, like antidepressants, some blood pressure medications and blood thinners can cause priapism. So can blood clots and poisonous venom, according to Mayo Clinic.

Go Ask Alice adds medical conditions can also be the culprit; for example, sickle-cell anemia, leukemia or a ruptured spine or paralyzation.

WebMD warns if untreated, priapism can scar the penis and result in long term complication of erectile dysfunction.

Ischemic priapism treatment is usually a combination of draining blood from the penis and medication, according to Mayo Clinic. Cleveland Clinic says intracavernous injection is another.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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