20 July 2010

What is priapism?

Priapism is a very serious and painful condition, which causes a prolonged and painful erection that can last from a few hours to a couple of days.


  • The condition is named after the Greek god of Fertility, Priapus, who was particularly well-endowed.
  • Priapism is diagnosed when an erection lasts more than four hours, in the absence of any sexual stimulation.
  • It is most often the result of penile injections used to treat impotence, or one of the symptoms of sickle-cell anaemia.
  • Certain psychiatric medications as well as certain illicit drugs can cause priapism.
  • Spontaneous prolonged nocturnal erections are a very annoying syndrome and might lead to priapism.
  • Treatment must be sought urgently, as permanent damage may be done to the penis with prolonged erections.


Any erection which lasts for more than four hours in the absence of any sexual stimulation needs to be treated medically. This should not be postponed, as permanent damage can be done to the penis.




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