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What is priapism?

Priapism is an erection of the penis that lasts for more than 4 hours without physical and mental stimulation. It develops when blood becomes trapped in the penis and is unable to drain. It is often painful. Priapism is relatively rare in general (<1 case per 100,000 people each year).

Symptoms of priapism:

  • Rigid erection with or without sexual stimulation
  • Erection lasts more than 4 hours
  • Penile pain or sensitivity

Priapism is a medical emergency that may result in permanent erectile dysfunction. Symptoms include: penile pain and a rigid erection. If you think you might have priapism, don’t try to treat it yourself. Instead, get medical care right away.

Your doctor may ask:

  • How long have you had the erection?
  • How long do your erections usually last?
  • Have you used any drugs, legal or illegal, recently?
  • Did the symptoms occur after an injury?

What is the outlook?

Most people who experience priapism recover completely if treated quickly. Treating priapism quickly reduces the risk of permanent problems getting and keeping erections.

This information was produced by the European Association of Urology (EAU) Patient Information Working Group, March 2017.

  • Dr. G. Patruno, Rome (IT)
  • Dr. M. Ortac, Istanbul (TR)
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