Definition of Priapism, Causes and Treatment

A condition in which a man’s penis remains erect for longer than four hours. Priapism is involuntary (not a function of sexual stimulation), painful, and requires immediate medical attention to prevent permanent damage to the penis and preserve sexual function.

Priapism is most often a side effect of medication, notably medications to treat erectile dysfunction and the antidepressant medication trazodone. It also may occur as a complication of sickle cell diseasegenital trauma, and prostate cancer.

Treatment may include evacuation of blood from the corpora cavernosa, the tubular channels within the penis that fill with blood to establish an erection, via needle and syringe or intravenous catheter. The doctor may also inject the penis with vasoconstrictor medications.

If medical interventions fail, surgery may be necessary to implant a shunt that allows blood to drain from the penis.


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