Define Priapism

Learn about priapism, a painful and prolonged erection without sexual stimulation. Discover its types, symptoms, causes, treatment, and case studies.

What is Priapism?

Priapism is a medical condition characterized by prolonged and painful erections that occur without sexual stimulation. It is a urological emergency that requires immediate medical attention to avoid complications.

Types of Priapism

  • Ischemic priapism: This is the most common type, caused by a lack of blood flow out of the penis.
  • Non-ischemic priapism: This type is less common and usually not as painful, caused by excessive blood flow into the penis.


The main symptom of priapism is a persistent and painful erection lasting for more than four hours. Other symptoms may include swelling, tenderness, and difficulty urinating.


Priapism can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Medication side effects
  • Drug use, such as cocaine or alcohol
  • Medical conditions like sickle cell anemia or leukemia


Immediate treatment is necessary to prevent permanent damage to the penis. Treatment options may include medications, drainage of blood from the penis, or surgery in severe cases.

Case Study

John, a 35-year-old man, experienced priapism after taking medication for erectile dysfunction. He sought medical help promptly and underwent a procedure to relieve the erection, avoiding long-term complications.


According to the American Urological Association, priapism affects about 1 in 200,000 men annually, with the highest incidence in men between the ages of 30-40.

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