What is priapism?
Priapism is an unwanted, prolonged erection of the penis. It can last for hours and often causes pain. Priapism does not occur because of sexual feelings or desires. Rather it occurs when red blood cells sickle and change the chemistry of the blood, causing a blockage of normal blood flow draining from the penis.
Why should I care about priapism?
An erection that lasts over four hours can cause permanent damage to the penis. If untreated, priapism can cause impotence, which means that a man is unable to have an erection for sex.
What should I do if I have an erection that won't go down?
If you have a persistent erection, you should:
- Try to urinate.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Take pain medicine.
If the erection lasts longer than one hour then you need to immediately go to the emergency room. At the ED, you should receive IV fluids and pain medicine. If the erection remains, then an urologist (a surgeon who specializes in the penis) may need to give you an injection.
It is very important to go to the hospital if you have priapism. Do not ignore it or try to just deal with it at home. If you have priapism and wait more than two hours to go to the ED, you could cause irreversible and severe damage to your penis. Priapism is serious and not your fault; do not feel embarrassed to get help for it.
Does priapism follow a pattern?
It often occurs as a severe long episode requiring hospitalization and follows multiple shorter episodes, termed “stuttering.” Episodes most often come from infection or normal night-time erections. Onset in the early morning, awakening the patient, is common.
Is it safe for me to masturbate?
Generally, priapism is not related to sexual activity. Rather, it often occurs during sleep. However, priapism can sometimes occur after sex. Despite this fact, masturbation is safe and usually does not cause priapism. If you have any concerns about having sex or masturbation, talk to your doctor.
Will I be able to father children?
Men with sickle cell disease are more likely to have problems with fertility. Men with sickle cell disease may have a more difficult time getting a woman pregnant because sickle cell disease can affect sperm. However, men with sickle cell can get a woman pregnant and father children. If you have concerns about your ability to father a child, talk to your doctor.