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What is priapism?



What is priapism?
Priapism is a persistent, often painful erection lasting more than 4 hours in duration. The priapism erection is not associated with sexual activity and is not relieved by orgasm. It occurs when blood flows into the penis but is not adequately drained.

What causes priapism?

Common causes of priapism include:

Alcohol or drug abuse (especially cocaine)
Certain medications, including some antidepressants and blood pressure medications
Spinal cord problems
Injury to the genitals
Anesthesia
Penile injection therapy (a treatment for erectile dysfunction)
Blood diseases, including leukemia and sickle cell anemia

How is priapism treated?

Treatment for priapism is a medical emergency, because a prolonged erection can scar the penis and result in a long term complication of erectile dysfunction if if not treated. The goal of treatment is to relieve the erection and preserve normal penile function. In most cases, treatment involves draining the blood using a needle placed in the side of the penis. Medications that help shrink blood vessels, which decreases blood flow to the penis, also may be used. In rare cases, surgery may be required to avoid permanent damage to the penis. If the condition is due to sickle cell disease, a blood transfusion may be necessary. Treating any underlying medical condition or substance abuse problem is important to preventing priapism.