What is priapism?


Know the basics

What is priapism?

Priapism is unwantedly prolonged erection in several hours. There are two main types: the erection with high blood flow and the erection with low blood flow. The first one occurs because blood difficultly escapes from the penis. The second one caused by too much blood flow into the penis. Priapism is a rare disease.

How common is priapism?

Priapism is a rare disease. This disease commonly affects boys, 5-10 years old, suffering from sickle cell anemia and men,20-50 years old. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of priapism?

Priapism can recur many times, prolong and be tenacious. When priapism recurs, the erection will repeat constantly, prolong less than 3 hours and cause pain. This situation is common and 10-40% occurs when men have sex.

Even though in most of cases priapism will end after hours, it also can prolong several days or years, and will be classified into an acute illness or prolonged.

Acute priapism prolongs several hours or even days. The erection can cause pain and anaphrodisia.

Tenacious priapism can prolong from several weeks to years, usually after a patient suffer from an acute disease. The erection often does not cause pain. The penis is erected (store a lot of blood), but is not stiff.  This situation can cause anaphrodisia.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should call an ambulance if your penis erection lasts long than 4 hours. Call your doctor if the penis has a prolonged and hurtful erection less than 4 hours. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes priapism?

Currently there is no accurate cause of priapism. In children, priapism usually relates to cancer or sickle cell anemia. Abnormal red corpuscle of anaemia can block the blood flow out of the penis. An sudden illness occurs during sleeping.

In men, drugs used to treat anaphrodisia may increase the risk for priapism. Antianxiety, anticoagulant, alcohol and addictive drugs can cause the disorder. Other causes are injury, spinal cord injury, diseases related to mental system, and metabolism and thrombosis.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for priapism?

There are many risk factors for this disease such as:

  • Diseases cause the disorder of blood circulation in blood vessels.
  • Using illegal addictive drugs.
  • Drinking too much alcohol or products containing hormone androgen steroids (the substances used to increase muscle size).

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is priapism diagnosed?

You may be give a clinical diagnosis, blood tests or a Doppler ultrasound. Moreover, an urologist may support to evaluate and diagnose the disease. A hematologist may also join consultations if you have anemia caused by sickle blood cells.

How is priapism treated?

Priapism recurring many times is often treated at home. Drinking lots of water and then peeing is the main treatment when the penis is stiff. Taking a hot shower and doing physical exercise will reduce the number of recurrence. If the erection does not reduce in 3 hours, you should go to hospital.

The patient who have prolonged priapism usually have to hospitalized. Your doctor will transmit water and desensitizer. You may need a blood transmission or transfusion. For a blood transfusion, you will be connect to a machine replacing your old blood with new one. If this method is ineffective, your doctor may need to withdraw blood from the penis.

There are no any standard treatments for prolonged erection. Vacuum penile pump devices or traction devices may be used to treat anaphrodisia.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage priapism?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with priapism:

  • Always urinate when your bladder is full to prevent the urinary retention.
  • Avoid dehydration
  • Prevent prolonged sex.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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