Normally, in order for an erection to be achieved and maintained, the individual’s blood flow needs to be preserved and untouched. What happens when
Normally, in order for an erection to be achieved and maintained, the individual’s blood flow needs to be preserved and untouched. What happens when a man gets sexually excited is more blood flowing through his penis, going to the penile sponge tissues, due to the extra relaxed arteries in the penis. But that blood needs to be literally trapped in the penile tissues in order for the erection to maintain during the sexual intercourse or masturbation.
So, in order for that to happen, the valves of the veins in the penis close and the blood has nowhere to go. After the sexual arousal has passed, the valves open again and the blood is released so that the penis can go back to its normal state. When the blood flow is interrupted in any way, conditions such as priapism can easily develop.
What is Priapism?
Although rare, there are known cases of a condition known as priapism or a painful erection that happens due to issues linked to the blood flow. Priapism is basically a prolonged erection that usually lasts up to 4 hours and most commonly is not even caused by sexual arousal, rather than simply occurring on its own. As we mentioned earlier, priapism is described to be quite painful for the individual. Priapism is thought to be most common within males who are in their 20s. But priapism has been noticed to occur in males of all ages, including newborns as well.
What Causes Priapism?
Basically, there are two different types of priapism according to its cause.
- Ischemic priapism, also known as low-flow priapism, which cause is commonly unknown. What is known is that blood gets trapped inside the erection chambers, although the reason behind how this happens is unknown. Ischemic priapism can occur within healthy males, but it is most commonly seen among males who have been diagnosed with sickle-cell disease, malaria, and leukemia.
- Non-ischemic priapism, also known as high-flow priapism, which is far less rare and less painful as compared with ischemic priapism. The non-ischemic priapism is mostly caused by an injury that has occurred to either the penis or the perineum, and most commonly due to an injury that has caused a complete rupture to one or more arteries in this area.
What are the Characteristic Symptoms of Priapism?
The symptoms of priapism depend on the type of priapism. For example, the low-flow priapism, which is considered to be more serious and more common, clearly characterizes itself with a painful erection and progressing pain, an erection that lasts up to 4 hours, and a rigid penile shaft while the tip is soft.
On the other hand, high-flow priapism causes milder symptoms to develop. Pain is not expected to occur, and when it does, it is in its milder form. The penile shaft is not so much rigid but it is erect, and the erection lasts up to 4 hours, similar to the ischemic type.
How is Priapism Diagnosed?
Priapism is a condition that needs to be treated right away because of the risk that it brings. If left untreated, priapism can cause temporary damage to the penile tissues that will surely result in erectile dysfunction in the future that will be harder, or even impossible, to be treated. Priapism is diagnosed with the help of a physical exam, medical history, and a blood test. An X-ray and a Doppler ultrasound might be needed as well.
How is Priapism Treated?
The goal of the treatment of priapism, no matter its type and cause, is to treat the prolonged erection and act in time to prevent erectile dysfunction from occurring.
If there is a low-flow priapism present, the doctor will most probably use a needle and a syringe to remove the excess blood that has been trapped in the erection chambers. By doing so, he will relieve the pain efficiently. Medications that will cause vasoconstriction to the arteries and vasodilatation to the veins in the penis can also be injected. This, as well, will help reduce the painful erection.
After the doctor has performed these treatments, and also if you are struggling with high-flow priapism, there are some other treatments that you can try on your own. Despite the fact that the high-flow priapism usually goes on its own, it will not hurt to speed up the process. We would recommend putting on ice packs to relieve the swelling and the pain.
If any of these methods do not work, then the doctor will probably recommend surgery. The doctor can recommend an arterial embolization to be performed. Arterial embolization is a procedure during which, using a catheter, particles are delivered as a way to cause a blockage in one or more blood vessels. This is, as you can guess, most commonly used in the case of high-flow priapism. If a ruptured artery is a problem, then the doctor can try to tie off the ruptured arteries which are a procedure known as surgical ligation. A surgical shunt might be inserted as well, as a way to make sure to divert the blood flow and make normal blood flow possible once again.
It is important to remember that priapism is a recurring condition, especially in the case of low-flow priapism, if sickle anemia, leukemia, or malaria are the causes. If your priapism is recurring, you might want to talk to your doctor about taking a decongestant to lower the odds of experiencing priapism ever again.
Priapism is considered to be a rare condition, and that perhaps is for the best since we are well familiar with the pain and discomfort that this condition brings upon. Most commonly diagnosed within males in their 20s, priapism can be caused by either common blood disorders or cancer, or by a ruptured artery. Despite the cause, it is important to focus on treating this condition as soon as possible. And the good news is that there are some pretty effective treatment methods that you can benefit from, including surgery, aspiration, ice packs, etc.