What are the symptoms of priapism?
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of priapism. The main symptom of priapism is a persistent erection not related to sexual stimulation that lasts for more than four hours despite orgasm. The penis will probably feel tender too, and the shaft of the penis may be rigid.
There are three types of priapism.
This is the most common and serious type, also known as low-flow priapism. Ischaemic priapism means that blood in the penis is unable to flow out again. The result of this is an unwanted, painful erection that lasts for longer than four hours. Severe damage can occur to the penis if this isn't treated quickly.
Non-ischaemic priapism is also known as high-flow priapism. This type of priapism is much rarer than ischaemic priapism and is caused when too much blood flows into the penis, creating a sustained erection. Unlike ischaemic priapism, this type is usually painless. Long lasting effects on the penis are less likely to occur with non-ischaemic priapism.
This type of priapism can be caused by medications which alter the blood flow to the penis, such as viagra, or by recreational drugs or pelvic tumours.
This type of priapism is often caused by an injury to the genitals or the area between the genitals and the anus (perineum), or due to damage to the nerve supply to the penis.
Recurrent or intermittent priapism
Also known as stuttering priapism, this type is similar to ischaemic priapism. However this type means that the sufferer recurrently experiences painful erections that last two to three hours, then subside. It is more common in people who suffer with conditions like sickle cell anaemia or other conditions that affect blood cells.