Priapism; Persistent erection

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Priapism is the prolonged abnormal erection of the penis. It is a condition of persistent erection which continues for hours. The erection is usually painful, and not caused by sexual stimulation.

Priapism occurs in several conditions that interfere with the blood flow to the penis or blood drainage from the penis.

It is generally considered an uncommon condition, as it occurs in certain groups such as people who have sickle cell anaemia, or malaria.

What causes Priapism?

  • Sickle cell anaemia
  • Leukemia
  • Medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, blood thinners (Warfarin, heparin, Coumadin)
  • Drugs used to treat Erectile Dysfunction (Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, Carvaject).

Other causes include:

  • Use of Marijuana, and Cocaine
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Spinal cord or genital area injury
  • Scorpion stings, and black widow spider bites.

Treatment of Priapism

  • Aspiration: This involves draining blood from the penis using a 16 or 18 gauge needle and syringe.
  • Medication that constricts the blood vessels that carry blood into the penis (Alpha Adrenergic Sympathomimetic; phenylephrine) is injected into the penis using a small (29 gauge) needle.
  • Surgery: A surgical procedure that reroutes blood can be performed.
  • Use of ice packs around the area sometimes gives relief.

In severe cases surgical procedures are available.

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