Priapism is a medical term for protracted erection of the penis. This reaction is actually unwanted and is not induced by sexual arousal or stimulation. This is why the condition can be quite painful. Priapism is considered serious and may require immediate medical attention. The goal of the treatment is to prevent any possible damage to tissues of the penis which may affect future erection and cause erectile dysfunction.
It is estimated that the condition most frequently affects little boys (between 5 and 10 years of age) and adult men (between 20 and 50 years of age).
Clinical Characteristics of Priapism
This medical issue is typically characterized by unusually prolonged erection. Apart from erection, which is obviously seen during physical exam, patients may develop several more symptoms.
In case of ischemic priapism, the condition develops as a result of insufficient blood flow to the organ. In such patients erection lasts more than two hours, the penile shaft is rigid while the glans remains soft, erection is not associated with any sexual stimulation and even if there is stimulation, erection continues once the stimulation is gone. And finally, all patients complain about pain and tenderness in the organ. Stuttering priapism is a type of ischemic priapism and it occurs as recurrent medical condition, meaning that the problem repeats from time to time. Such form of priapism may last several hours and is most commonly painless.
In non-ischemic priapism the problem develops due to excessive blood flow to the organ. In such individuals erection may last up to several hours ( at least 4 hours). These individuals report erect but not rigid shaft of the penis. The condition is mostly painless and not associated with any sexual stimulation.
How to Prevent Priapism?
Since scientists have identified some of potential causes of priapism, the condition can be successfully prevented with certain measures of precaution.
First of all, it is essential to properly treat all the underlying conditions that may have led to priapism in the firts place. Furthermore, since this unpleasant medical issue may be caused by intake of certain medications, if it occurs, the particular drug is supposed to be replaced with suitable substitute medication.
Priapism induced by alcohol consumption and use of illicit drugs can be prevented if one abstains from these harmful substances.
Treatment for Priapism
If all the preventive measures fail and one, in spite of them, develops priapism, especially if the condition is recurrent, the person requires proper treatment.
Ischemic priapism is treated with aspiration (removal of the blood from the organ) and several more medications such as injections of an alpha-adrenergic sympathomimetic drug (phenylephrine). Some patients may benefit from surgically created shunt, a device which prevents excessive accumulation of the blood in the organ.
Non-ischemic priapism is generally not treated because it tends to withdraw spontaneously. In this case an individual may benefit from putting cold compresses and applying pressure on the perineum (the area between the base of the penis and the anus). Surgery is only used to repair damage that has interfered in normal functioning of the arteries of the penis.