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Erectile Dysfunction: Peyronie's Disease

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Peyronie's disease is caused by scar tissue, called plaque, which forms along the length of the penis in the corpora cavernosa. This plaque is not visible, and depending on the severity of the condition, the plaque can cause the penis to bend, making sexual intercourse difficult and occasionally painful.

What Causes Peyronie's Disease?

The cause of Peyronie's disease is unclear. Many researchers believe the plaque of Peyronie's disease can develop following trauma (hitting or bending) that causes localized bleeding inside the penis. The injury or trauma may not be noticeable. Other cases, which develop over time, may be genetically linked or inherited (passed on from parents to children through genes). The disorder could be caused by a combination of both factors. 

In addition, a number of medications list Peyronie's disease as a possible side effect. However, the chance of developing Peyronie's disease from any of these drugs is very low and there is no absolute evidence that Peyronie's disease is related to taking these drugs.

Who Gets Peyronie's Disease?

One study found that Peyronie's disease occurs in 1% of men, according to the National Institutes of Health. Although the disease occurs mostly in middle-aged men, younger and older men can get it. In some cases, men who are related tend to develop Peyronie's disease, suggesting the disease may be genetically linked.

What Are the Symptoms of Peyronie's Disease?

Symptoms may develop slowly or appear overnight. When the penis is soft, no problem can be seen. But, in severe cases, the hardened plaque (which is benign, or noncancerous) reduces flexibility, causing pain and forcing the penis to bend or arc during erection. In most cases, the pain decreases over time, but the bend in the penis can remain a problem. Occasionally, milder forms of the disease will resolve spontaneously without causing significant pain or permanent bending. Overall, Peyronie's disease will resolve on its own between 5%-19% of the time.

Some men with Peyronie's disease develop scar tissue elsewhere in the body, such as on the hand or foot.

How Is Peyronie's Disease Diagnosed?

First, your doctor will talk to you and ask about any circumstances, such as injury, that may have occurred prior to symptoms appearing. Your doctor can feel the hardened tissue caused by the disease during an exam, although sometimes it is necessary to do the exam with the penis erect. In some cases where the doctor's exam does not confirm Peyronie's disease, or in cases where the condition develops rapidly, your doctor may perform a biopsy. A biopsy involves removing tissue from the affected area to be examined in a lab.

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