Priapism: What it is, and Why it is a Concern

Information on the medical condition known as “priapism” with particular consideration to detail devoted to the nature of the condition, the potential factors responsible for the manifestation of the disorder as well as the risks that are responsible that can and do arise in relation to the presence of the condition.

The sexual organs, both the penis and the clitoris of the vagina rely upon the circulation of blood in order to attain a state of erection so as to perform sexual activity more readily and easily. In essence, priapism will is diagnosable where the sexual organ in question has not reverted to the “flaccid” stage even after four consecutive hours have lapsed. The name of the condition has been directly derived from Greek mythology whereby a demigod, Priapus, was infamous within Roman culture and literature as being such a lustful and depraved person, that his penis was perpetually erect.

Broadly speaking, there are two distinct forms of the condition, and these are defined and considered in more detail as follows.

Low flow priapism: with this variation of the condition, the blood that has circulated and migrated towards the sexual organ in question has not then been introduced for recirculation throughout the remainder of the body. As such, the blood has accumulated within the cells of the organ and refused to move thereafter.

High flow priapism: this variation of the condition is typically caused where there has been damage such as a rupture or fissure of some kind, to the vascular system which leads itself towards the sexual organ in question.

The precise mechanisms which are specifically responsible for the onset of the condition are not well-understood. However, there several conditions which have been identified as playing a contributory role in the development, severity and onset of the condition:

  • Haematological disorders including, but not limited to the likes of: sickle-cell disease, leukaemia and thalassemia
  • Neurological disorders including, but not limited to the likes of: lesions and tumours of the spinal cord.
  • Certain narcotics, including cocaine and heroin have also been duly noted as being contributory factors also.

It is also important to note that not only is priapism a condition in and of itself, it also poses a series of risks and complications and of itself. One of the most common complications that can arise from the priapism is the development of something known as “ischemia”. Ischemia is the process whereby the blood will clot within the penile tissue, which in turn can escalate into potentially life-threatening conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and the development of gangrene.

Of these, gangrene is the most directly concerning not to mention dramatic of the potential complications that can arise from the condition. Ultimately, the presence of gangrene within the penile tissue can necessitate the total removal (amputation) of the penis. Although such a radical step would only be taken in the most severe of circumstances, it is still a risk to be duly aware of.

In the event that a male should notice that they have sustained an erection for any longer than four hours of duration without abatement, it is essential that they solicit medical assistance immediately.