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The Hidden Causes, Symptoms and Dangers of Untreated Painful Erections

Labeled a relatively uncommon set up, excruciatingly elongated erections can be debilitating and somewhat dangerous. 

Professionally know as priapism, this problem typically involves an erection that can last for up to a few hours (or even longer), and isn't resultant of sexual stimulation. Because of this, priapism is often agonizing and traumatic. 

Most prevalent in men between 30 and 40, this can cause irreconcilable damage to penile tissue if left untreated. It can instill erectile dysfunction too, instigating a significant disability to initiate or prolong a regular erection when getting down to business.

What happens during priapism?

Without optimum blood flow, achieving a successful, adequate erection is impossible. During arousal, penile arteries expand to allow greater entry of blood, with coordinating valves closing to keep the blood in place. 

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Then, once sexual excitement ceases, relevant valves open for the bloodletting and the penis will become limp, slack, or lax once more. 

Two Types

Typically, there are two primary types of this condition. Non-ischemic (high flow) is more recherche of the two, and transpires due to injury to the penis itself or perineum area. If said injury has been dreadful enough to damage important arteries, movement of blood in and out of the penis will be anomalous – hence a prolonged erection. 

The other type is called ischemic (low flow). It's promoted as the most mainstream and injurious mold, prompted by blood being blocked within penis during an erection, with no way of escaping. 

What are the causes?

The primary cause of priapism is essentially blood flow that’s beyond custom. This may happen from injuries, substance abuse and intemperate boozing. 

However, one most common cause of this condition is blood disorder. These include leukemia, thalassemia and sickle cell anemia. Therefore, those with blood-related problems are at greater likelihood of priapism.

Medications from your doctor could also be furnishing factors. Anti-psychotic medicines such as Zyprexa (olanzapine) and Risperdal (risperidone) have been linked, as well as antidepressants like sertraline and Prozac. Hormone therapy can also play a part. 

What are the main symptoms?

Both forms of this plight have their individualized specifications to look for. 

Ischemic priapism is typically very painful, with erections capable of lasting longer than four hours without any sexual stimulation, interest or excitement. The penis tip is usually soft to the touch, with the shaft being extremely rigid in contrast. 

If an erection extends longer than 4 hours, it’s vital to seek emergency care immediately. Blood will need to be carefully drained from the penis to incite the erective tissue to return back to normal, and to relieve pain. 

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You might also require injectables if you suffer with a blood-based disorder as earlier discussed. Or, if no treatment appears to be working, you may undergo surgery to reroute blood flow and enable normalcy. 

Non-ischemic is considered less painful. Some men report no pain whatsoever with this type. Erections will usually last for the same duration as ischemic, but the shaft is categorically less rigid in structure. These erections often disappear on their own without treatments, but you can help ease with pressurized ice packs. 

Whilst relatively uncommon, priapism can be extremely worrying should it happen to you, and if recurring and left untreated, could cause irreversible damage to your penis. 

So, if you find yourself ever experiencing a long-lasting erection for multiple hours, make an emergency appointment with your GP. Or, if pain is too unbearable, head to your nearest hospital as soon as possible. 

Once your immediate treatment is over, your doctor may recommend you to attend an upcoming visit to a sexual disorder specialist. This will help prevent future episodes from occurring, and ensure your entire genital area is good to go.