How to Treat Priapism?

  • November 14, 2023
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How to Treat Priapism?

What is Priapism?

Priapism is an uncommon yet severe medical condition marked by prolonged and persistent erections not linked to sexual arousal. Designated a urological emergency necessitating immediate medical attention, the condition derives its name from Priapus, the Greek god associated with fertility and male genitalia. Unlike typical erections resulting from sexual activity, priapism is an abnormality in the mechanisms regulating blood flow in the penis. Characterized by a prolonged erection lasting over four hours and often accompanied by discomfort, priapism occurs when blood is trapped in the penis, hindering proper drainage.

Why Does Priapism Occur?

Priapism occurs when there is an imbalance in the blood flow mechanisms of the penis. The condition is typically classified into two main types: ischemic (low-flow) priapism and non-ischemic (high-flow) priapism.

  1. Ischemic Priapism: This is the more common and serious form of priapism. It occurs when blood becomes trapped in the erectile tissues of the penis, leading to a prolonged and painful erection. Ischemic priapism is often associated with conditions such as sickle cell disease, where the sickle-shaped red blood cells can block blood vessels, causing restricted blood flow.
  2. Non-Ischemic Priapism: This less common form is caused by an excess of blood flow into the penis. It is often associated with abnormal blood vessels or penile trauma.

Several factors can contribute to the development of priapism, including sickle cell disease, certain medications (such as erectile dysfunction drugs, blood thinners, and some psychiatric medications), trauma to the genital area or spine, blood-related disorders (like leukemia), and illicit drug use (particularly stimulants like cocaine).