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How is priapism treated?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Priapism, or a prolonged erection, can be dangerous if it lasts more than four hours. Up until about four hours, the first medical approach may be watchful waiting, to see if the erection subsides on its own. If it doesn't, doctors may give an anesthetic, and then drain the penis of extra blood, and they may also inject a drug that will help the erection subside.

Priapism is the medical term for an erection persists several hours after, or is unrelated to, sexual stimulation. This painful condition is a potential side effect of medications that treat erectile dysfunction (ED). If you experience an erection that lasts more than four hours after taking Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), or Levitra (vardenafil) get immediate medical help. If the penis has been erect for less than four hours, you may be given a decongestant to reduce blood flow to the penis. Doctors may also try to reduce swelling by placing ice packs on the penis and perineum (the area between the scrotum and the anus).

For erections lasting longer than four hours, doctors will take steps to reduce blood flow to the penis. This can be done by injecting a drug into the penis that shrinks blood vessels; aspirate (drain) blood from the penis with a needle; or inserting a shunt to divert blood flow.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.