Men's Health Wednesday November 30, 2011

All about priapism

Priapism in men is a painful and potentially dangerous medical condition whereby an erection is maintained for several hours. The penis does not return to its flaccid state, regardless of sexual arousal and stimulation being absent, and is usually diagnosed after an erection has remained for more than four hours. Without appropriate medical assistance, priapism can cause severe damage to penile tissue and blood vessels; even possibly cause impotence if untreated and require surgery.

There are two types of priapism, low-flow and high-flow. The former involves blood not returning from the penis into the body properly, with the latter being a blockage of the vascular system in the appendage. While both are potentially harmful, if encountered and recognised early enough emergency treatment is available.

What causes Priapism?

The exact causes of Priapism are varied, and like impotence, can depend largely on the individual person. For the most part, the condition has been linked to haematological (blood related) problems, neurologic disorders and spinal cord afflictions or trauma. In some cases the usage of erectile dysfunction treatments like Viagra have been associated with potentially causing priapism but in other situations the PDE-5 inhibitors are actually prescribed as preventative treatments for patients who are at risk of developing the condition.

Certain toxins, found in poisonous spider bites, and certain recreational drugs, like heroin or cocaine, have also been discovered to possibly cause the condition to present itself.

What is the treatment for Priapism?

If an erection has lasted more than four hours, medical help should be sought immediately. Treatment for priapism will be entirely reliant on the cause itself with management consisting of medication, blood transfusion and possibly surgical involvement.

Medication is probably the most common form of management, initially certainly, and would consist of “inducing” the flaccid state of the penis with an amphetamine class medication. The key goal is to reduce the blood flow into the penis, however if this can’t be done through medication it is done through aspiration. This means that the blood would have to be removed surgically. Though this sounds incredibly uncomfortable and painful, the procedure is done under anaesthetic and via injections.

What should I do if I think I’ve developed Priapism?

If you think you’re experiencing priapism due to extended periods of an erection, you should seek emergency treatment immediately. It’s understandable that the emergency treatment might be off-putting for many men, but if untreated the occurrence can potentially cause extreme harm. Don’t be afraid to go to an emergency room for an examination, priapism is understood to be a critical emergency.

The medical staff will be able to assist you in any form, with various treatments to help reduce the erection to normal.

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