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Penis Disorders

There are two primary disorders that affect the male's external reproductive organs. These include penis disorders and testicular disorders. Disorders of the penis and testes can affect a man's sexual functioning and fertility.

What Disorders Affect the Penis?

Some disorders that affect the penis include priapism, Peyronie's disease, balanitis, phimosis, paraphimosis, and penile cancer.

What Is Priapism?

Priapism is a persistent, often painful erection lasting more than four hours. The priapism erection is not associated with sexual activity and is not relieved by orgasm. It occurs when blood flows into the penis but is not adequately drained.

What Causes Priapism?

Common causes of priapism include:

How Is Priapism Treated?

Treatment for priapism is a medical emergency, because a prolonged erection can scar the penis and result in a long term complication of erectile dysfunction if not treated. The goal of treatment is to relieve the erection and preserve normal penile function. In most cases, treatment involves draining the blood using a needle placed in the side of the penis. Medications that help shrink blood vessels, which decreases blood flow to the penis, also may be used. In rare cases, surgery may be required to avoid permanent damage to the penis. If the condition is due to sickle cell disease, a blood transfusion may be necessary. Treating any underlying medical condition or substance abuse problem is important to preventing priapism.

What Is Peyronie's Disease?

Peyronie's disease is a condition in which a plaque, or hard lump, forms on the penis. The plaque may develop on the upper (more common) or lower side of the penis, in the layers that contain erectile tissue. The plaque often begins as a localized area of irritation and swelling (inflammation), and can develop into a hardened scar. The scarring reduces the elasticity of the penis in the area affected.

Peyronie's disease can occur in a mild form that heals without treatment in six to 18 months. In these cases, the problem does not progress past the inflammation phase. In severe cases, the disease can be permanent. The hardened plaque reduces flexibility, causing pain and forcing the penis to bend or arc during erection.

In addition to the bending of the penis, Peyronie's disease can cause general pain as well as painful erections. It also can cause emotional distress, and affect a man's desire and ability to function during sex.

What Causes Peyronie's Disease?

The exact cause of Peyronie's disease is unknown. In people whose disease develops quickly, lasts a short time, and goes away without treatment, the likely cause is trauma (hitting or bending) that causes bleeding inside the penis. However, in some people, Peyronie's disease develops slowly and is severe enough to require surgical treatment. Other possible causes of Peyronie's disease include:

  • Vasculitis. This is an inflammation of blood or lymphatic vessels. This inflammation can lead to the formation of scar tissue.
  • Connective tissue disorders. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 30% of men with Peyronie's disease also develop disorders that affect the connective tissue in other parts of their bodies, such as the hands and feet. These conditions generally cause a thickening or hardening of the connective tissue. Connective tissue is specialized tissue -- such as cartilage, bone, and skin -- that acts to support other body tissues.
  • Heredity. Some studies suggest that a man who has a relative with Peyronie's disease is at greater risk for developing the disease himself.

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