What is Priapism?
Normally, following ejaculation (coming), the penis loses its rigidity and returns to a flaccid (soft) state. When an erection lasts for a prolonged period of time – 3 to 4 hours – this condition is known as priapism and can become very painful. It results from the inability of the additional blood required for acquiring an erection to leave the penis when no longer needed.
What causes it?
There can be a number of reasons why priapism occurs. It might happen if treatment for erectile dysfunction has been too successful. Much less likely, but still possible, it may be a side effect of other medication. For example, using an anti-depressant such as Prozac, or treatments for premature ejaculation. It can also be caused by erectile dysfunction medication like Viagra. More rarely, it can be related to other physical conditions such as sickle cell disease.
How can it be treated?
In the early stages, the erection may respond to quite simple treatments such as exercising – a brisk walk may be enough to resolve the problem. Otherwise a cold compress such as a wet towel, or an ice bag (even a bag of frozen produce from the fridge) held against the erection may work.
If these simple measures don’t work then medical attention should be sought to prevent permanent damage and the subsequent impairment or loss of ability to achieve further erections. Emergency action is recommended if the erection lasts beyond 3 to 4 hours. If this were to happen to you then you should go to your nearest Accident & Emergency Department if no other medical assistance is immediately available. Remember to take into account the amount of time it will take you to reach such help. Medical treatment for priapism is relatively simple and largely consists of draining some blood from the penis.