Priapism is a condition in which the penis remains unintentionally in the erection for a period of time more than 4 hours. More common in boys between 5 and 10 years and in adults between 20 and 50 years, usually is associated with pain and not in excitement.

There are two types. The most common, called ischemic priapism, it is associated with the inability of the blood to flow out of the penis, which looks stiff. Nonischemic priapism is instead due to an excessive flow of blood into the penis, which remains erect but not stiff.

Priapism may be associated with sickle cell anemia, leukemia, certain drugs (such as antidepressants, drugs for psychosis or against erectile dysfunction and anticoagulants), intake of alcohol or drugs, trauma or poisoning (e.g. due to the bite of a black widow). The causes, however, are not always detected with certainty.


What kind of diseases can be associated with priapism?

The following diseases may be associated with priapism:

  • Anemia
  • Prostate cancer
  • Cystitis
  • Clotting disorders
  • BPH
  • Leukemia
  • Prostitis
  • Anger
  • Urethritis


What is the therapy for priapism?

Typically the treatment of ischemic priapism involves drainage of blood from the penis (performed under local anesthesia) combined with the use of drugs directly into the penis. If these remedies do not have an effective result, surgery for the drainage of the blood may  be needed.

The non-ischemic priapism, however, often resolves without treatment. To facilitate the end of the erection you can apply ice and a little pressure in the perineum. Sometimes, however, it may be needed to surgically insert material to temporarily block blood flow into the penis or to repair arteries or tissue possibly damaged by the trauma that caused priapism.

If the base of the problem is a health disorder, sickle cell disease, you may need further treatment, such as oxygen administration or a drip to prevent moisture loss.



When is most likely to contact your doctor in case of priapism?

If the erection lasts more than 4 hours you should go to the emergency room. That way you can prevent tissue damage that could lead to erectile dysfunction.