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Priapism:Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About priapism

Priapism is a rare but serious condition affecting men. It is characterized by persistent and painful erection which may last for more than 4 hours. This results from pooling of blood in the penis, which may occur due to several underlying causes. It is considered as a medical emergency, which if ignored, may lead to permanent damage to penis.

Priapism: Incidence, age and sex

Priapism is a rare disorder which may affect men of all ages. It may also be encountered in children including infants.

Signs and symptoms of priapism: Diagnosis

The affected individual may complain of failure of an erect penis to return back to normal even after a few hours. This kind of persistent erection is painful for the individual. The underlying cause can be diagnosed by detailed history and quick physical assessment by the consulting doctor. Blood may be aspirated from the penis and sample sent to laboratory for further assessment, if required. Past history of the affected individual including drug intake, erectile dysfunction or spinal trauma may help in detecting the cause of priapism.

Causes and prevention of priapism

Priapism occurs due to accumulation of excess blood in the penis. The exact cause of this pathological phenomenon is not exactly clear but individuals with a history of sickle cell disease are more prone to this disorder. Moreover medications like anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, drug abuse (cocaine), or spinal trauma (injury or surgery) may also increase the chances of priapism. There are no preventable measures which can ensure the deterrence of this disorder.

Priapism: Complications

Priapism is a medical emergency, which if not timely managed, may lead to serious and irreversible damage to the penis. It can even result in impotence, in a few rare cases.

Priapism: Treatment

It is essential to manage the condition immediately. In fact, timely management of priapism results in the condition getting resolved without any lasting damage. Pain can be relieved by cold compress of the affected area. Medications like decongestants and vasoconstrictors (drugs that narrow the blood vessels) are given to reduce the amount of blood in the erectile tissue. The blood from penile vessels can also be aspirated to bring the penis to normal state. In rare cases, when above stated measures fail, then surgical intervention is considered. This includes a ‘shunt operation’ in which the blood is diverted from erectile tissue to other site. Priapism is a serious condition which should not be taken lightly. Immediate medical attention is the key to complete and effective treatment.