An erection is a normal part of sexual function, but one that lasts for more than a couple of hours is an indication of a serious medical condition. Priapism is a rare occurrence, affecting less than 10 percent of the male population, though it can develop at any age. The causes range from mundane to complicated. In all cases, getting help quickly means the difference between temporary discomfort and life-altering issues.
When blood is unable to leave the penis, this is known as low-flow, ischemic priapism. The shaft becomes rigid, but the tip of the penis, the glans, is soft. This is a common and painful type of priapism. On the other hand, improperly regulated blood flow causes high-flow, non-ischemic priapism. In these cases, the shaft is erect but not rigid, making it less painful.
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