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Prolonged Erections: Causes, Risks, And Remedies For Men

UPGUYS > Blog > ED Treatment > Prolonged Erections: Causes, Risks, and Remedies for Men
The person who wrote this article

Written by the UPGUYS Editorial Team
Published on September 01, 2023

Prolonged erections, medically known as priapism, stand as a topic of both intrigue and concern in the realm of men's health. While the occasional long-lasting erection might seem beneficial in the eyes of some, it's crucial to distinguish between what's normal and what's potentially harmful.

Ignoring or underestimating the significance of this condition can lead to serious complications, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive understanding.

Read more: 10 Sex Positions To Last Longer In Bed

With a commitment to shedding light on this often misunderstood topic, this article aims to provide the most authoritative and detailed resource on the causes, risks, and solutions for prolonged erections in men.

Topics covered in this article:

Priapism: Understanding Prolonged Erections

Prolonged erections, known in the medical community as priapism, describe a condition where the penis remains erect for an unusually extended period, typically without sexual arousal. It's important to underscore the difference between priapism and normal sexual responses:

  1. Normal Sexual Responses: These are penis erections that occur due to sexual arousal and typically subside after sexual activity or after a short duration.
  2. Prolonged Erections (Priapism): An erection that lasts for over four hours without sexual stimulation. There are, however, variations in this duration depending on individual cases and medical definitions.

Shining a light on its prevalence, studies suggest that priapism is more common than reported, with many men feeling embarrassed or uncertain about seeking medical advice. Although exact numbers can vary, it's estimated that 1 in every 100,000 males experiences this condition annually. This range underscores the potential for underreporting and the necessity of raising awareness.

Types of Priapism: Ischemic vs. Non-Ischemic Insights

In the spectrum of prolonged erections, two main categories are recognized, each with distinct mechanisms, causes, and implications:

Ischemic (low-flow) priapism

  1. Mechanism: This type stems from the blood's inability to leave the penis, leading to oxygen deprivation and potential tissue damage.
  2. Causative Factors: Various factors can trigger ischemic priapism. These include certain medical conditions such as sickle cell anemia, medications like antipsychotics or blood thinners, and the misuse of recreational drugs, especially those used to enhance sexual performance.

Non-ischemic (high-flow) priapism

  1. Pathophysiology: Unlike its ischemic counterpart, non-ischemic priapism arises from an increased blood flow to the penis, typically due to disruptions in the arterial system.
  2. Factors Leading to Arterial Venous Shunts: These disruptions can form shunts, rerouting the blood flow. Common culprits include trauma, surgical procedures, or anatomical issues that affect the penis's blood vessels.

Understanding the difference between these two types is pivotal for accurate diagnosis, timely treatment, and prevention of potential complications.

Risks & Repercussions of Untreated Prolonged Erections

The persistence of an erection, particularly when untreated, carries with it a range of implications that aren't limited to physical health:

  1. Timeliness of Treatment: The longer priapism goes untreated, the higher the risk of irreversible damage. Swift medical intervention often leads to better outcomes and reduced complications.
  2. Long-Term Consequences: Prolonged erections, if left untreated, can lead to fibrosis, a condition where erectile tissues become replaced with non-functional, fibrous tissue. This can ultimately result in erectile dysfunction or loss of penile length.
  3. Psychological Impacts: Men suffering from recurrent or prolonged priapism often grapple with anxiety, depression, or feelings of inadequacy. The uncertainty and unpredictability surrounding episodes can be mentally taxing.
  4. Relationship Strains: Beyond the individual, priapism can place a significant strain on romantic relationships. The impact on intimacy, combined with the potential for miscommunication or misunderstanding about the condition, can lead to distance or tension between partners.

Awareness of these risks is paramount, not just for those directly affected, but for partners, caregivers, and healthcare professionals, ensuring a holistic approach to care and support.

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When it comes to priapism, prompt diagnosis, and accurate medical evaluation are cornerstones for effective treatment. A structured approach is essential:

Promptness and Precision: An early diagnosis can prevent complications and improve the prognosis. It's pivotal to discern priapism from other penile conditions for tailored treatment.

Medical Assessment Steps

  1. Physical Examination: A healthcare professional will assess the state of the erection, looking for signs of pain, tenderness, or other abnormalities.
  2. Patient History: Crucial for identifying potential triggers or underlying causes. This may include questions about medication usage, medical conditions, or recent trauma.
  3. Symptom Description: The patient’s account of the duration, pain level, and onset can provide valuable insights.

Diagnostic Tests

  1. Blood Tests: Useful in determining the type of priapism (ischemic or non-ischemic) and checking for conditions like sickle cell anemia.
  2. Imaging Studies: Ultrasounds and Doppler studies can highlight blood flow abnormalities, helping to pinpoint the priapism type and potential causes.

By employing a systematic diagnostic approach, doctors can better differentiate priapism from other penile disorders, paving the way for effective management and treatment.

Read more: A Comprehensive Guide To Effective Delayed Ejaculation Treatment

Managing Prolonged Erections: Treatment & Beyond

Addressing prolonged erections requires a combination of immediate relief measures, medical interventions, and psychological support:

Immediate At-Home Measures

  1. Cold Compress: Applying a cold pack can sometimes help reduce the erection. It’s important, however, to wrap the ice in a cloth to avoid direct contact with the skin.
  2. Moderate Activity: Engaging in activities that divert blood flow, like jogging or walking, might provide relief.
  3. Note: These are temporary measures, and medical advice should be sought promptly.

Aspiration and Drainage

Professionals might use needles to draw blood out from the penis, providing relief. The procedure often involves local anesthesia and should be done under expert supervision.

Pharmacological Interventions

  1. Alpha-Agonists: Drugs like phenylephrine are injected into the penis to alleviate the erection by constricting the blood vessels.
  2. Analgesics: Pain relievers may be prescribed to manage discomfort post-procedure.

Surgical Interventions

In cases where other treatments fail, surgical procedures might be warranted. This can include the creation of a shunt to divert blood flow or other reconstructive procedures.

Psychological Support

It’s imperative to recognize the emotional toll priapism can take. Counseling or therapy can be beneficial, helping patients and their partners navigate the challenges of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

With comprehensive care, many men can find relief and regain normal function, underscoring the importance of early detection and intervention.

Read more: Can Sexual Inactivity Lead To Erectile Dysfunction?

Proactive Steps: Preventing Prolonged Erections

Taking preemptive action can significantly mitigate the risk of experiencing priapism. Here are key preventive strategies and considerations:

Identifying High-Risk Individuals

Awareness of one's medical history and understanding predisposing factors, such as sickle cell anemia or the use of specific medications, can help individuals recognize if they are at a heightened risk.

Lifestyle Adjustments

  1. Limit Alcohol & Drug Consumption: Excessive alcohol or illicit drug use can increase the risk. Moderation or abstention is advisable.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Especially crucial for those with conditions like sickle cell anemia, maintaining hydration can reduce the chance of blood vessel blockages.
  3. Avoid Prolonged Situations: For instance, extended cycling or horseback riding, which can impede blood flow.

Medication Navigation

It's vital to be informed about the potential side effects of prescribed medications. If priapism is a known risk, patients should discuss alternative treatments or preventive strategies with their healthcare provider.

Read more: Gabapentin & Erectile Dysfunction: Unraveling The Connection

Collaborative Approach

Regular check-ups, open dialogue with healthcare providers, and patient education play integral roles. Working together, both parties can optimize preventive measures, ensuring the individual remains well-informed and prepared.

Being proactive not only minimizes the risk but also equips individuals with the tools and knowledge to swiftly respond if and when priapism occurs.

Raising the Bar: Awareness of Prolonged Erections

Sexual health, despite its significance, often falls prey to societal taboos and hesitations. To foster a more informed and compassionate society, it's essential to promote awareness about conditions like priapism:

  1. Breaking the Stigma: Shifting cultural perceptions is paramount. Encouraging open conversations about sexual health can demystify misunderstandings and pave the way for a more informed society.
  2. Engage with Healthcare Professionals: Fostering an environment where individuals feel safe to share their concerns with medical experts is vital. This not only facilitates timely intervention but also establishes trust and transparency.
  3. Harnessing Support Networks: Local or regional groups dedicated to sexual health can be instrumental. These communities provide a safe space for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and finding solace among peers.
  4. Online Resources: Trusted websites and platforms can offer a wealth of information on prolonged erections, its management, and prevention. Moreover, they serve as avenues for emotional support, connecting individuals globally.

Championing awareness means bridging the gap between misconceptions and reality, ensuring that those affected by priapism can navigate their journey with dignity, support, and knowledge.

Read more: Can you get hard with erectile dysfunction?

The Future of Priapism Research & Treatment

As medical science continuously evolves, the landscape for understanding and treating prolonged erections is no exception. Dive into the forthcoming advancements and innovations in this domain:

Delving Deeper into Priapism

Ongoing research is actively shedding light on the intricate mechanisms underlying priapism. From exploring genetic markers to discerning environmental triggers, the scientific community remains committed to deepening its comprehension.

Revolutionizing Treatment

  1. Novel Approaches: Researchers are experimenting with new pharmacological agents, offering promising avenues for more effective treatments.
  2. Tech-Assisted Interventions: Advancements in medical technology are presenting innovative methods for diagnosis and treatment, increasing precision and minimizing invasive procedures.
  3. Envisioning a Brighter Future: With the strides being made in both understanding and managing priapism, there's renewed hope for those affected. The goal remains clear: to provide individuals with a better quality of life, minimizing discomfort and maximizing well-being.

The fervor of the research community, combined with the testimonies of those affected, is fuelling a future where priapism can be more comprehensively addressed and treated.

Read more: Erectile dysfunction self-care

Key Takeaways

  1. Understanding Is Key: Prolonged erections, or priapism, differ from normal sexual responses and demand swift medical attention. Being informed about its nuances aids in better management.
  2. Diverse Causes: Priapism can be ischemic or non-ischemic, each stemming from different causes, be it medical conditions or trauma.
  3. Treatment Is Multifaceted: Management ranges from at-home measures to surgical interventions. The emphasis is on timely, accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment.
  4. Prevention & Awareness: Being proactive, understanding risks, and promoting open conversations can significantly reduce priapism's impact on individuals and society.
  5. Bright Horizons Ahead: With ongoing research, emerging treatments, and increased awareness, the future holds promise for improved understanding and enhanced quality of life for those affected by priapism.

As with many medical conditions, knowledge empowers. Staying updated and fostering open dialogues can make a significant difference in how we address and navigate priapism.


Prolonged erections, while not frequently discussed, carry significant implications for an individual's physical and emotional well-being. Through this comprehensive exploration, it's evident that understanding priapism, seeking prompt treatment, and promoting awareness are paramount.

As we've underscored, timely medical attention and open conversations can make a world of difference. We remain dedicated to offering the most in-depth and reliable information on this subject, aiming to empower and inform our readers.

Let's collectively break barriers, prioritize health, and ensure that every individual has the resources and support they need to navigate challenges like priapism.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1- What is priapism or a prolonged erection?

Priapism is a prolonged and often painful erection that can last for hours, unrelated to sexual arousal. It requires immediate medical attention to prevent potential long-term complications.

2- How is priapism different from a normal erection?

While typical erection results from sexual arousal and subsides after sexual activity, priapism occurs without sexual stimulation and does not subside on its own.

3- Are there different types of priapism?

Yes, there are mainly two types: Ischemic (low-flow) and Non-ischemic (high-flow). The former is more common and arises from blocked blood flow, while the latter results from excessive blood flow due to an injury or anatomical anomaly.

4- What are the primary causes of priapism?

Causes can vary from certain medical conditions, such as sickle cell anemia, to the use of specific medications or recreational drugs.

5- Is immediate treatment necessary for priapism?

Absolutely. Delay in treatment can lead to long-term complications, including potential damage to the penile tissue and loss of erectile function.

6- How is priapism diagnosed?

A combination of physical examinations, patient history, symptom descriptions, blood tests, and imaging studies can help diagnose the condition.

7- What are the available treatments for priapism?

Treatment modalities range from immediate at-home measures for temporary relief, to medical procedures such as aspiration and drainage, to surgical interventions in severe cases.

8- Can priapism be prevented?

Being aware of personal risks, making lifestyle adjustments, and maintaining open communication with healthcare providers can play a significant role in prevention.

9- Are there support groups or resources for individuals experiencing priapism?

Yes, numerous support groups, both offline and online, cater to sexual health concerns like priapism. These groups offer emotional support, share experiences, and provide guidance.

10- Is priapism a common condition?

While not exceedingly common, priapism is not rare either. However, due to the stigma surrounding sexual health topics, it may be underreported.

Arming oneself with knowledge and understanding is the first step toward managing any health concern. If you or someone you know may be experiencing priapism, seek medical attention immediately and remember that open dialogue can pave the way for better health outcomes.


UPGUYS has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information provided in the articles cannot and should not replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns or the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.