What is Priapism and how to find out if you suffer from it?

First of all, let’s define exactly what priapism is. Priapism is a disorder causing a prolonged erection of the penis in the absence of sexual desire or stimulation. This pathology is sometimes associated with complications, such as erectile dysfunction.

To a large extent, Priapism occurs in patients with haematological disorders, so there is genuine concern from those suffering from this pathology. Diagnosis is essential, but above all, preventative measures are required, as it may cause damage to distinct cavernosum tissue, or cause necrosis of the erectile tissue and fibrosis. 

In extreme cases where the patient cannot resolve their priapism, invasive interventions should be used to arrest the deterioration and internal damage and preserve erectile function, or in the worst or extreme cases, to carry out palliative care where it is no longer possible to preserve this function. 

Before continuing, we will explain some basic fundamental concepts so that everything can continue to be understood. 

Erections only occur when there is an adequate and ideal flow of blood.  In sexual stimulation, the blood flows, creating an expansion and contraction effect both in the arteries of the penis and in those of the pelvis, carrying the blood to the spongy tissue of the penis. At the same time, the valves in the veins close and contract all the blood, and in this way, they create an erection. When sexual stimulation comes to an end, or ejaculation takes place, the valves open once again, releasing the blood flow once more. 

In abnormal cases, this blood flow to the penis can create an erection, without any prior sexual stimulation, which may last over 5 hours and cause the patient intense pain. These cases are called priapisms.


Some of the reasons for priapism are:

  • Certain treatments for depression
  • Use of certain drugs, such as cocaine
  • Sickle cell anaemia
  • Self-medication of pharmaceuticals for erectile dysfunction