Priapism as a side effect of erectile dysfunction drugs

Priapism as a side effect of erectile dysfunction drugs

When the state of erection of the penis lasts for several hours without any type of sexual stimulation, it is called priapism. This situation must be resolved by a specialist in Urology in a health center. Knowing more about this topic will allow you to clarify any doubts you may have about this condition.

What is priapism?

Priapism is known as a persistent as well as a painful erection that lasts for more than four hours without sexual stimulation. This occurs when blood becomes trapped in the penis and cannot drain.

This situation can occur at any age, including newborns. However, it occurs more frequently in children between 5 and 10 years of age, as well as in adults between 20 and 50 years of age.

Causes of priapism

The increase in blood flow to the penis is what causes the erection, by the time the stimulation ends, the erection disappears. This is caused by decreased blood flow.

When there is a problem with the flow of blood to the penis, priapism may appear among the causes that can trigger the appearance of priapism, there are diseases and some disorders such as:

  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Leukemia
  • Multiple myeloma

Drugs are indicated in cases of erectile dysfunction, mental illness, and anticoagulants.

Alcohol or drug use

Injury to the genitals, pelvis, and even in the area between the penis and the anus.

Types of priapism

Priapism can present in two types:

Low-flow priapism: In this case, blood is trapped in the erection chambers. It can often occur in otherwise healthy men with no known cause. But it also occurs in men with diseases such as Leukemia or sickle cell disease.

High flow priapism: it is unusual for it to occur, but when it appears it is not painful, it occurs as a result of an artery rupture due to an injury to the penis or perineum (area between the scrotum and anus) which prevents for the blood to circulate as it normally does.

How is the diagnosis of priapism made?

The specialist doctor will be in charge of making the diagnosis of priapism and identifying what type it is. In the physical exam, he will check the genitals, abdomen, groin, and perineum. He will also ask you about the symptoms and if you have had any injuries.

To help in the diagnosis, the doctor may request some tests such as:

  • Penile blood gas measurement: this test will identify the type of priapism you present; if there are low levels of oxygen in the blood it will be treated as low flow priapism, but if the sample is red and bright, it will be high flow priapism.
  • Blood analysis is indicated to see the level at which the red blood cells and platelets are found, with which it is ruled out if there is a blood disease generating priapism.
  • Toxicology tests to rule out the presence of drugs in the body.
  • Ultrasound to measure blood flow to the penis.


Priapism, as you have seen, is a disorder that occurs in men at any age, it is characterized by a sustained and painful erection that, if not treated in time, can leave sequelae.

Once it occurs, it must be treated at an emergency health center by a specialist doctor.

If at any time this situation occurs, go immediately to the emergency room of a health center, where you will be treated by a specialist doctor, who will be in charge of applying the treatment you need.


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