Sometimes things take a wrong turn in the bedroom ... literally. That’s because about 5%-10% of men have Peyronie’s disease, in which scar tissue causes a bend in the penis when it’s erect. This kind of angle may interfere with your sex life.
Degrees of Difficulty
How big a problem Peyronie’s disease poses depends largely on how much the penis is bent.
"If somebody has a 10-degree curvature, it will have little impact on function. But when you get to 30 degrees or more, that’s when it starts to become significant," says Ryan Berglund, MD. He's an assistant professor of surgery at the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at Cleveland Clinic. If the angle is big enough, sex can be impossible.
Peyronie’s disease can also make erections painful. Drogo Montague, MD, is director of the Center for Genitourinary Construction in the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at Cleveland Clinic. He believes the curve and the pain are caused by minor injuries during sex. Those injuries lead to inflammation and, over time, scarring. Fortunately, the pain doesn't last. "When healing is complete, pain always goes away," Montague says.
The ED Connection
Many men with Peyronie’s disease also have some degree of erectile dysfunction. "Having Peyronie’s disease doesn’t mean you have ED, and having ED doesn’t mean you have Peyronie’s disease, but very frequently, someone with Peyronie’s disease will have ED," Berglund says.
"A classic example of that would be somebody who can get rigidity closer to the body than the scar, but beyond the scar, they don’t really get the rigidity necessary for [sex]," Berglund says.
A lot of men with Peyronie’s disease also have trouble keeping an erection. In some cases, ED drugs can help.
Ways to Approach the Curve
Treatments for Peyronie’s disease can help. Meanwhile, the condition can be awkward.
"It’s not unlikely for men with Peyronie's disease to have a high degree of shame and embarrassment around this," says sex therapist Ian Kerner, PhD. That's why communication is key.
"Let your partner know what’s going on and what feels good and what doesn’t, and let your partner also have the experience of giving you pleasure, even if it’s in a nontraditional way." Also, says Kerner, "maybe focus a little more on the giving of pleasure as opposed to the receiving of pleasure."
Having sex may require experimenting. "In some cases there may be a sexual position that works or that’s less painful," Kerner says. He suggests trying different positions -- such as side-by-side or standing up -- to see what works.