Priapism Treatment in Tarpon Springs, FL
What Is Priapism?
Male hormones, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels work in tandem to facilitate the development of the male erection. When a man becomes sexually aroused, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the penis. These signals stimulate muscles to relax and allow blood flow to the tissue in the penis. During intercourse, an erection normally lasts 14 minutes; after an orgasm, the blood drains out of the penis, returning it to its flaccid, or non-rigid, state.
When blood flow fails to leave the penis, priapism can occur. Priapism is a serious medical condition characterized by a prolonged erection—not due to sexual stimulation—that lasts longer than four hours.
A persistent erection which lasts for hours is considered a serious medical condition which requires immediate treatment. Untreated priapism can lead to irreversible damage to the penis and permanent erectile dysfunction. To meet with a healthcare practitioner in Tarpon Springs who specializes in priapism treatment, call (813) 536-3212 or contact Evolution online.
Types of Priapism
There are two main types of priapism: ischemic and non-ischemic priapism.
- Ischemic priapism, also referred to as low-flow priapism, is the most common form of priapism and occurs when blood enters the penis but does not leave. The trapped blood does not have access to oxygen, and the oxygen-deprived blood can begin to damage or destroy tissue.
- Non-ischemic priapism, also referred to as high-flow priapism, is a rare form of priapism which is typically instigated by an injury to the pelvic region that causes excessive blood flow into the penis.
With priapism, some part of male reproductive system—the muscles, nerves, hormones, or blood vessels—fails to work as it should, causing alterations to normal blood flow.
Common causes of low-flow or ischemic priapism include:
- Sickle cell anemia
- Urological disease
- Blood disorders such as multiple myeloma and leukemia
- Spinal cord injuries
- Cancer involving the penis or nearby organs
- Spider bite or scorpion sting
- Certain toxic infections
- Alcohol or drug use (especially marijuana and cocaine)
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
The relationship between erectile dysfunction and priapism is interesting. Priapism can lead to erectile dysfunction if not treated promptly, but sometimes erectile dysfunction drugs can cause priapism. Different types of medications can also lead to episodes of ischemic priapism, including:
- Psychotropic medications used to treat psychotic disorders
- Penile injections used to treat erectile dysfunction
- Some ADHD medications
- Alpha blockers
- Blood thinners
- Certain sleep aid medications
Priapism Symptoms & Diagnosis
Priapism symptoms vary depending on whether you are experiencing ischemic or non-ischemic priapism. In both cases, you are likely to experience:
- An erection that lasts more than four hours
- Rigid penile shaft with a soft tip
The main difference between ischemic and non-ischemic priapism is that ischemic priapism typically causes penis pain. If pain is felt with non-ischemic priapism, it is usually related to the injury and not the erection.
Your medical history, together with a physical examination and a review of your symptoms is usually sufficient for a diagnosis of priapism, but since treatment depends on the type of priapism you have, the following diagnostic tests may become necessary:
- Blood gas measurement: A needle is inserted into your penis to collect a blood sample which will reveal whether the blood in your penis is oxygen-deprived, due to low-flow priapism, or instead is a bright red blood sample, indicating high oxygen content and high-flow priapism.
- Blood tests to check your red blood cell or platelet counts to help diagnose diseases which may be causing the priapism
- Toxicology tests: A urine or blood test to detect drugs or medications which may have triggered the priapism
- Ultrasound to measure the blood flow to your penis and isolate trauma or injury that may have triggered the priapism
Treatment of Priapism
Non-ischemic priapism may require no treatment and resolve on its own. Putting pressure on the perineum or using cold-packs can often cause the erection to subside.
Ischemic priapism requires treating the underlying cause of your prolonged erection and may include:
- Aspiration: Blood can be drained—or aspirated—from your penis using a needle and syringe, removing oxygen-deprived blood, deflating the erection and relieving pain. The aspiration may need to be repeated until all of the blocked blood supply has been drained.
- Priapism Medications: Phenylephrine for priapism requires an injection into the penis which constricts blood vessels feeding the penis and allows increased blood flow out of the penis. Also known as intracavernous injection, this method uses alpha-agonist drugs. You may require several treatments and should be carefully monitored for side effects if you have heart disease or high blood pressure.
- Priapism Surgery: Surgery may become necessary to repair arteries or address tissue damage resulting from an injury or from the priapism itself.
Surgical ligation—where the surgeon ligates or ties-off the artery causing abnormally high blood flow into the penis—is sometimes used to restore normal blood flow.
Surgery to insert an absorbable gel to temporarily block blood flow to your penis is sometimes recommended. The gel is then gradually absorbed by your body.
A priapism shunt procedure is another option in which a passageway is surgically inserted inside the penis to divert blood flow and normalize circulation.
Sometimes a combination of these treatments may be necessary.
Remember that erections lasting longer than four hours are medical emergencies requiring immediate treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of priapism, schedule a consultation with a qualified healthcare practitioner in Tarpon Springs who specializes in the treatment of priapism. Call (813) 536-3212 or contact Evolution online.
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