Priapism Treatment

A man who experiences the painful condition of priapism has several priapism treatment options. The treatment type depends on whether or not his priapism is an emergency situation. Priapism refers to a prolonged erection of the penis, and it can be very painful. A man who suffers from priapism has an erection that lasts more than four hours, and it occurs without sexual stimulation or arousal.

Although priapism can occur in young boys, it is usually seen in men between the ages of twenty and 50. It can occur whenever normal blood flow changes. Various factors can cause priapism, including blood disorders, prescription medications, illegal drugs and injury. The condition is uncommon, and it usually requires immediate medical attention. Without proper treatment, priapism can cause tissue damage that results in erectile dysfunction, or an inability to get or maintain an erection.

Priapism Types And Symptoms. Priapism symptoms vary according to type. Ischemic (low-flow) priapism results when blood cannot leave the penis. It is the most common type of priapism. Symptoms include the following: an erection without sexual stimulation; an erection lasting more than four hours; a rigid penis shaft with a soft penis tip (glans); a painful or tender penis.

Nonischemic (high-flow) priapism results when too much blood flows into the penis. Symptoms of this type include the following: an erection without sexual stimulation; an erection lasting more than four hours; an erect penis shaft that is not rigid; a penis that is usually pain-free.

Stuttering priapism is yet another type. Also called recurring priapism, this type refers to on-again, off-again priapism. This type is usually very painful and can last for many hours. It usually necessitates a visit to the emergency room.

Priapism Treatment Options. Ice Packs. Ice packs, applied to the penis and perineum, is a man’s first treatment option. It works best for nonischemic priapism. Ice packs help reduce the painful swelling associated with priapism, and may help end the erection. 

Medication. To treat ischemic or low-flow priapism, a doctor may inject treatment drugs into the penis. These drugs, called alpha-agonists, cause blood vessels to narrow. This reduces blood flow to the penis and eases painful swelling.

Surgical Shunt. A surgical shunt is another treatment option for low-flow priapism. A doctor surgically inserts a shunt, or passage, into the penis. This diverts blood flow and eases the painful swelling.

Surgical Ligation. If a ruptured artery causes priapism, a doctor may tie off (ligate) the artery to restore normal blood flow in the penis.

Aspiration. Aspiration is another treatment option for priapism. A doctor will numb the penis before inserting a needle and draining blood. The veins may be flushed with a saline solution. Aspiration reduces the pressure and swelling that causes pain.

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