Priapism (Prolonged Erection): Care Instructions

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Priapism (say "PRY-uh-piz-um") is an erection that does not go away. This happens when the penis stays erect without sexual stimulation. A painful erection lasting more than several hours can damage tissues. Without urgent medical treatment, this can result in erectile dysfunction and the inability to have sexual intercourse.

The cause of priapism is often not known. But it can happen from having a blood disease like sickle cell disease or as a side effect of many medicines.

Your doctor may have removed blood from your penis. This was to help the erection go away. And you may have been given a shot of medicine to soften the erection. If these treatments don't help, surgery may be needed.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Urinate often. Don't wait until you feel the need.
  • Talk to your doctor about the medicine that may have caused the painful erection. You may be able to stop taking it.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a new painful erection that lasts for more than 3 hours.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.