Priapism causes, symptoms and cure: Seek medical help if you’ve had an erection for many hours

There are certain sexual conditions in men which most people don’t know about and which can potentially cause damage without an individual knowing it. If you have been experiencing erections even after climaxing, then you might be suffering from priapism and should get yourself checked by a medical expert as soon as possible.

Priapism is a rare condition occurring in less than one in a million people annually in India. It causes the penis to remain in persistent or prolonged erection without or long after stimulation has ended. Erection may last for several hours together causing much pain, soreness and discomfort.

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The condition has been clinically shown to be of three types: Ischemic priapism or low-flow condition which is normally painful. Non-ischemic priapism or high flow condition in which people may not experience much pain. Recurrent priapism, which involves intermittent episodes of prolonged erections.

But what are the causes of this rare condition? “The most common cause of priapism is injections of papaverine in the corpora spongiosa of the penis. This is either done to rule out erectile dysfunction’s psychogenic or vasculogeniccasues, or it is also given as a second line of treatment for erectile dysfunction. It is also seen in patients with sickle cell anemia,” says Mumbai-based Dr Deepak Jumani, a senior sexual health physician and counselor with Sir JJ Group of Hospitals and Grant Medical College.

The condition occurs when some underlying medical abnormality interferes with the blood flow to or drainage from the penis. Other medical causes of priapism include past malignancies, leukemia and trauma from spinal cord or pelvic region injuries. “It may also occur as a side effect of certain medications such as antidepressants and even with PDE5 inhibitors used to treat erectile dysfunction,” adds Dr Jumani. And how should one go about seeking help if you feel you might have priapism?

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“Priapism is often treated as a medical emergency as it may lead to further complications such as impotence, infection and erectile dysfunction. The condition often settles on its own within a few weeks,” explains Dr Vinod Raina, who is a Delhi based sexologist and is on the medical app, Lybrate.

In severe cases, pain management is advised with the use of ice packs, penile blocks and aspiration of blood from the penis. Dr Raina says that medications are prescribed only to those where aspiration does not help. A small dose of phenylephrine is injected into the penis which acts by constricting blood vessels present in the erectile tissues.

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