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Health

What is priapism? 

The penis disorder that is referred to as priapism is a medical emergency, for which immediate help from an expert like Sexologist in Islamabad is needed. Read on to know more about priapism, its causes and treatment options:

What is priapism?

The prolonged erection—mostly longer than four hours—of penis due to any non-sexual cause is called priapism. It is usually a painful condition that is common in certain illnesses like sickle cell anemia. Priapism must be treated promptly to prevent any lasting damage to the organ. The age group most affected by priapism includes men in their 30s, but it can occur in any age, including in newborns.

What is the cause of priapism?

Erection is the result of cumulative blood flow into the penis, with expansion of the arteries, bringing more blood into the spongy tissue of the penis, and the closure of the venous valves, trapping this blood into the area. Normally, the valves open after ejaculation and the blood flows out. However, any cause that prevents the opening of the venous valves and trapping of blood in the spongy tissue of penis, results in priapism.

The common causes of priapism include:

Sickle cell anemia: results in sickling of the red blood cells that trap the blood in the penile artery. Most individuals with sickle cell disease experience priapism. In fact, according to data from Cleveland Clinic, 42 percent of people with sickle cell anemia will experience priapism.

Medication: that dilate the arteries can lead to priapism. Other prescription medication like antidepressants, blood thinners, hormone replacement pills, drugs for ADHD, alpha blockers, medication for anxiety disorders and drugs for treating erectile dysfunction can all lead to priapism.

Injury: to the spinal cord, pelvis, perineum or directly to the penis can cause nonischemic priapism. In this type of priapism, there is excessive blood flow to the penis that results in persistent erection.

Drugs of abuse: like cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy and marijuana can lead to priapism, especially ischemic priapism. Combining these recreational drugs with alcohol can also lead to priapism.

Bug bites: spider and scorpion stings and other toxic infections can cause priapism.

Carbon monoxide poisoning: can result in priapism.

Chronic disorders: certain cancers like leukemia, multiple myeloma and chronic disorders like thalassemia and other hematologic dyscrasias result in priapism.

Metabolic disorders: like gout and amyloidosis can cause priapism.

How is priapism treated?

Emergency care is mandatory for anyone with an erection lasting for more than four hours. Upon examination and investigation can a healthcare provider determine the type—ischemic or nonischemic—of priapism. Treatment is thereafter started according to the type of priapism.

Erection lasting less than four hours is treated with oral decongestants. This medication is effective only between four to six hours of symptom onset. If the symptoms last for longer, other measures are resorted to. These include:

Surgical ligation: if there is ruptured vessel that is leading to pooling of blood and priapism then ligating or tying off the artery is the standard treatment option.

Surgical shunt: is effective for low-flow priapism whereby a shunt is inserted into the penis to redirect the blood flow so circulation can return to normal.

Intracavernous injection: is another option for low-flow priapism. This method involves injecting drugs like alpha agonists are into the penis, thereby constricting the blood vessels and causing the pooling of blood to minimize.

Aspiration: a needle is inserted into the penis to drain the blood to reduce the swelling and pressure.

Untreated priapism can result in erectile dysfunction as a result of the deoxygenated blood trapped in the penile tissue. The management strategies by experts like Best Sexologist in Lahore focus on draining of the blood and preventing any permanent damage.

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