What Causes Ischemic Priapism? - Symptom, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Find out “What causes ischemic priapism?” – Ischemic priapism is a condition where the blood flow to the penis is blocked, causing it to become erect and remain so for an extended period of time. If not treated promptly, this can lead to permanent damage to the tissue of the penis and potentially impotence.

There are two main types of ischemic priapism: low-flow and high-flow. Low-flow priapism is more common and occurs when the blood in the cavernosal arteries, which supply blood to the penis, becomes stagnant.

This can be due to a variety of factors, including injury to the arteries or veins, certain medications (such as anti-depressants or blood pressure medications), or sickle cell disease.

High-flow priapism is less common and occurs when there is an arterial injury that allows excessive blood flow into the cavernosal arteries. This can be caused by trauma to the penis or perineum (the area between the anus and scrotum), certain medical procedures, or radiation therapy.

What causes ischemic priapism?

Ischemic priapism is a medical emergency that occurs when blood flow to the penis is blocked. The most common cause of ischemic priapism is an injury to the penis or perineum (the area between the anus and scrotum). Other causes include:

  • Certain medications, such as alpha-blockers used to treat high blood pressure and recreational drugs such as cocaine
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease
  • Certain cancers, such as leukemias and lymphomas

If not treated promptly, ischemic priapism can lead to permanent erectile dysfunction.

Symptoms of Ischemic Priapism

When ischemic priapism occurs, blood flow to the penis is blocked. This can cause the following symptoms:

-A prolonged erection that lasts for four hours or longer
-Pain in the penis
-Firmness of the erect penis that is not relieved by ejaculation
-Skin on the penis that is purple or blue in color
-Possible engorgement of the head of the penis

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical help immediately. Ischemic priapism can lead to permanent damage to the penile tissue if it is not treated quickly.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Ischemic Priapism

When it comes to diagnosing and treating ischemic priapism, there are a few things that need to be taken into account.

First, it’s important to rule out other potential causes of the priapism (such as sickle cell disease or medication side effects).

Once other causes have been ruled out, your doctor will likely order an ultrasound to get a better look at the blood flow in your penis.

From there, treatment options can vary depending on the severity of the priapism. If it’s mild, you may just need to wait it out and let the priapism resolve on its own. However, if it’s more severe, you may need medication or even surgery to correct the problem.

Prevention of Ischemic Priapism

There are several things that can be done to prevent ischemic priapism. First, if you have sickle cell disease or another blood disorder that predisposes you to priapism, it is important to take measures to prevent episodes.

This may include taking hydroxyurea or other medications as prescribed, maintaining good hydration, and avoiding exposure to cold temperatures. If you have had priapism in the past, it is also important to avoid any activity or trauma that could trigger another episode.

Second, if you have had an erection that lasts longer than four hours, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. This is because prolonged erections can lead to tissue damage and scarring, which can make future episodes of priapism more likely.

Finally, if you are taking medication for erectile dysfunction (ED), it is important to be aware of the risk of priapism.

Some ED medications, such as alprostadil and papaverine, can cause priapism if they are not used properly. If you are taking an ED medication and develop an erection that lasts longer than four hours, you should seek medical attention immediately.


Ischemic priapism is an uncomfortable and embarrassing condition that can have serious long-term effects. It is important for adults to be aware of the causes, treatments and prevention options available so as to reduce their likelihood of developing this condition. With the right knowledge, adults can take the appropriate steps to ensure their sexual health remains in top shape.

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