Priapism causes abnormally persistent erections not related to sexual stimulation. Priapism symptoms may vary depending on the type of priapism. There are two main types: ischemic and nonischemic priapism.
Ischemic, also called low-flow, priapism is the result of blood not being able to leave the penis. It's the more common type of priapism. Signs and symptoms include:
- Unwanted erection lasting more than four hours
- Unwanted erection off and on for several hours (stuttering priapism)
- Rigid penile shaft, but usually soft tip of penis (glans)
- Usually painful or tender penis
Nonischemic, or high-flow, priapism occurs when too much blood flows into the penis. Nonischemic priapism is usually painless. Signs and symptoms include:
- Unwanted erection lasting at least four hours
- Erect but not rigid penile shaft
When to see a doctor
If you have an erection lasting longer than four hours, go to the emergency room. If you experience a painful, persistent erection that resolves on its own in less than four hours, see your doctor. You may need treatment to prevent further episodes.
June 15, 2013
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- Broderick GA, et al. Priapism: Pathogenesis, epidemiology, and management. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2010;7:476.
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