Priapism is a fairly common phenomenon that affects many males and can happen in all age groups including newborns. It is a condition where an erection lasts longer than usual (nearly four hours or more). Priapism can happen even without sexual stimulation. The condition occurs when blood is trapped in the penis and fails to drain. When not immediately remedied, this condition can lead to scarring and even permanent erectile dysfunction. It is therefore important to seek immediate medical attention whenever you suffer the condition. There are two main categories of priapism namely low-flow and high-flow. Low-flow occurs when blood is trapped in the penis chambers and has little known facts about the real cause although it is more prolific in those with sickle cell anemia. High flow happens when penis arteries are raptured or injured and is less painful.
What causes priapism?
There is little known about what causes priapism although a couple of risk factors are associated with the condition. Many cases of the condition are in patients of sickle cell anemia. A reported estimate suggests that 42% of males suffering sickle cell anemia will develop priapism. Use and misuse of medications can also lead to the condition. Medications such as Desyrel (used for depression) and Thorazine (for mental illnesses) have both been associated with the phenomenon. ED (erectile dysfunction) patients may also experience the feat due to oral and injected drugs. Other purported causes include bites from the widow-spider, carbon monoxide poisoning, trauma to the genital areas or spinal cord and use of illicit drugs like cocaine and marijuana.
What are the remedies?
The treatment offered will depend on which priapism you surfer (high-flow or low-flow). Low flow is more common of the two and requires immediate treatment. High flow is quite rare and often gets healed on its own without treatment. However, sharp pains and injuries to the penis caused by low flow priapism should be diagnosed and treated to prevent difficulties with achieving erection in the future. The common treatment options are aspiration and sympathomimetic injections. Aspiration involves numbing down the penis with an anesthetic then a small needle is used to drain off the blood from the penis. In some cases, the doctor will wash away left over debris from the vessels using sterile water. When aspiration fails, sympathomimetic is injected directly into the penis tissues. This medication squeezes blood vessels causing blood to flow out of the penis and preventing more from being pumped in. Surgery may be recommended when both medications fail. There are different types of surgeries depending on the type and severity including shunt surgery and embolization. For recurrent priapism, drugs such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists or antagonists and anti-androgens may be prescribed.