"Priapism is an uncomfortable, unwanted erection of the penis that persists despite a lack of sexual desire or stimulation. It is frequently painful and distressing". See related post here
There are 2 common types of priapism namely:
1. Stuttering Priapism: this is the most common type usually lasting only a short time but keeps reoccuring. They get better by themselves but may also spontaneously reoccur again after a short period of time. Some of these are not painful but the longer they last, the more painful the erections become.
2. Acute (Fulminant) Priapism: this is a sustained painful erection lasting more than a few hours. It is normally very painful and considered a major complication of scd.
A priapism attack is a sickle cell crisis that is localised in the penis because the sickled red blood cells cause a disruption to the normal flow of blood within that area. This causes the blood to get trapped therefore keeping the penis in the erect state. The trapped blood becomes oxygen deprived causing pain and further tissue damage the longer it persists. Most patients have reported their first experience with priapism during adolescence and may continue to experience it into their 30s and 40s.
My late brother suffered from priapism and at first did not know that this was a sickle cell complication. He was understandably slightly embarrassed to talk about this until the pain and frequency with which it was happening forced him to open up to my mom before going to the hospital. There are several triggers for priapism which include but are not limited to:
a. alcohol and smoking
b. having sex
c. normal early morning erections
d. low oxygen levels and;
e. hot and cold environments
Managing priapism could involve drinking extra fluids, taking pain relievers, emptying your bladder at night and immediately you wake up in the morning.
Seeking help can be difficult for practical difficulties as well as it is for feeling shy and embarrassed. However, to avoid the irreversible tissue damage that would occur if treatment is delayed, below is some helpful information to know when coming to the hospital with priapism:
1. Ask for privacy at the hospital if you wish to discuss your situation
2. Call an ambulance if you are unable to drive because of the pain
3. Ask to be referred to your region's haematology/urology sickle cell priapism clinic
4. Ask for written info about priapism and treatments to help you
I hope this helps and for more information on this, you can visit https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/haematology/priapism-sickle-cell.pdf
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