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Priapism is a condition in which the penis stays erect without sexual stimulation. It can affect people of any age.

The most common type of priapism is low-flow priapism. Although the cause is often unknown, it can result from sickle cell disease or another blood disease. Or it can be caused by the use of certain medicines.

Low-flow priapism can be a serious problem. It can cause severe pain and may damage the penis, making it impossible to get a normal erection (erectile dysfunction). Erectile dysfunction is the main long-term result of priapism, and it can occur after just one episode of priapism.

The other type of priapism is called high-flow priapism. It is most often caused by an injury. It doesn't cause pain, and it often goes away on its own.

Any episode of priapism that causes pain and lasts for more than 3 hours requires urgent medical treatment.

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.