Priapism is an erection that lasts more than 4 hours without sexual stimulation. It can be very painful. Often, the cause of priapism is not known. In adults, some causes include sickle cell disease and side effects from medicine or from illegal drugs. Some prescription medicines and shots (injections) have been linked to priapism. So have alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

Children with leukemia can get priapism. This is because blood flow in the penis gets blocked by the large number of white blood cells in the blood.

Priapism is very serious. When erections last over 4 hours, there is less blood flow to the penis. This can cause cell damage from lack of oxygen. The longer you have the erection before treatment, the worse the outcome. Those treated within 4 to 6 hours do best. But up to 50% of all men who get priapism will have some degree of erection problems in the future. 

Home care

  • Rest and don't have any sexual stimulation as advised by your healthcare provider.

  • Stay away from things that may trigger priapism. These may include certain medicines, marijuana, and alcohol.

  • Ask your urologist about medicines that can be used at home at the earliest sign of a recurrence.

  • The medicine hydroxyurea may help prevent priapism in people with sickle cell disease.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your urologist, or as advised.

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Having another prolonged erection that does not go away soon after sexual stimulation stops

  • Bleeding from puncture sites in the penis where blood was drained

  • More pain, redness, or swelling

  • Area of skin that is turning black

  • Trouble passing urine

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell