When Your Erection Won’t Go Away; It’s More Serious Than You Think

Senior Male Patient Resting In Hospital Bed

Each year, billions of dollars are spent on ads that target men in hopes in making their erections stronger and last longer. But what happens when that erection lasts too long? Though the makers of erectile dysfunction drugs list prolonged, unwanted erections as a potential side effect, urologists have their doubts.

A priapism is a rare condition defined by prolonged erections in the absence of sexual arousal,and is associated with certain blood diseases, hypertension, and recreational drug use. No matter what its cause, priapism can be dangerous if left untreated. A man who has a painful erection for more than 12 hours is at high risk for permanent damage.

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Most men try the “usual suspects” when an erection won’t go down and over 70% usually can make it go down. Those tactics are:
– change sitting position to crossed legs to prevent blood flow
– cold compress to the groin area
– add pain around the area
– avoid sexual stimulation

Under normal conditions, a man gets an erection when his nervous system triggers the dilation of the arteries that feed into his corpora cavernosa, the spongy tissues that girdle the urethra along the length of the penis. These fill with blood and harden, as do both the spongy tissue that encapsulates the urethra and the head of the penis, called the glans. This constricts the veins leaving the penis, temporarily maintaining an erection.

So, what causes an erection that won’t go away? There are two types of priapism, non-ischemic and ischemic. Non-ischemic priapism usually results from an injury to the penis or perineum. If an artery that feeds into the corpora cavernosa ruptures, blood might spill into the erectile tissues. While blood can now flow both in and out, the outflow is not sufficient to shrink the erection. As a result, a man with non-ischemic priapism will have a semirigid penis for hours on end. Because the circulation of blood has not been impeded, non-ischemic priapism doesn’t hurt and often clears up on its own without causing long-term damage. Treatment usually consists of…

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