Priapism is a condition whereby men suffer from persistent erections, which can be highly painful. These erections last for at least four hours, and no sexual stimulation lies at its cause. People who have this condition find that blood becomes trapped in the penis, meaning it is unable to drain. If no treatment is provided, the penis can become susceptible to scarring, which in turn can lead to permanent erectile dysfunction.
Priapism can happen to men of all ages, and can even be present in newborns.
There are two distinct types of priapism, being high flow and low flow.
• High flow is the rarer of the two conditions, but is also the least painful. It is generally caused by an artery that ruptures, or because there is an area in the perineum (which is the area between the anus and the scrotum), or the penis itself. These injuries can stop blood from flowing properly to and from the penis, which causes problems with circulation.
• Low flow happens when the erection chambers trap blood inside. In most cases, no discernible cause for the condition can be found. It happens both in men who are perfectly healthy and in those with certain diseases. It is, however, more common in those with blood cancer (leukemia), sickle-cell disease or malaria.
Any treatment given for priapism is designed to remove the erection and ensure regular erectile function can continue to exist. A number of different treatment options exist, including:
• Using ice packs, which when applied to the perineum or the penis can help to reduce the swelling.
• Surgical litigation, which is the treatment of choice if there has been a ruptured artery, During this
procedure, the artery will be tied off, so that regular blood flow can be restored.
• Intracavernous injections, which are only offered for those with low flow priapism. Here, alpha-agonists, a type of drug, are injected straight into the penis. As a result, the veins will narrow so that no further blood flow to the penis is possible. This also helps to reduce the swelling of the erection. Those who suffer from acute priapism may be prescribed oral alpha-agonists.
• Surgical shunts, which are also only applicable for those with low flow priapism. Here, a shunt is inserted into the penis, causing a passageway for the blood to flow, restoring circulation back to normal over time.
• Aspiration is the final option. Here, the penis is first numbed with a local anesthetic. Doctors then insert a hollow needle and drain the excess blood away from the penis, thereby reducing the swelling and pressure.
It is incredibly important, if you suspect that suffer from priapism, that you seek medical attention straight away. You should also never treat the condition yourself without having had medical advice first.