While a long-lasting erection might sound highly desirable and stimulate fantasies of a career as an adult film actor, a prolonged erection can actually cause permanent injury to the penis. While it is unlikely that most men will encounter this painful problem, knowing the signs to watch for and proper care of the penis can help to prevent lasting penis problems that may affect the ability to enjoy sex and impair sexual function in the long term.

What is priapism?
Simply put, priapism is a prolonged erection – one that lasts for more than four hours – that occurs without sexual stimulation. The condition is usually painful, and men who experience engorgement under these circumstances should seek emergency medical care to avoid permanent injury and loss of erectile function.

What causes this condition?
There are two different types of priapism. Low-flow priapism is more common and occurs when blood becomes trapped in the erectile tissue of the penis. It can occur in men who are otherwise healthy, without a visible cause. However, men who have a chronic condition known as sickle-cell anemia are more likely to experience priapism, as are men who have leukemia (a cancer of the blood cells). Use of illicit substances, carbon monoxide poisoning and malaria have also been linked to the occurrence of low-flow priapism. Other causes may range from black widow bites to trauma to the genitals or spine.

High-flow priapism, on the other hand, is generally the result of an injury to the penis in which an artery is ruptured, disrupting normal blood flow. This type of priapism is less common, as well as less painful, than low-flow priapism, but it should still be treated as a medical emergency to prevent lasting damage to the penis.

What are the long-term effects?
If a prolonged erection is not treated right away, it can lead to scarring of the penile tissue and permanent loss of function. Men who experience this condition should see their doctor immediately and be prepared to tell them how long the condition has been present and any surrounding circumstances, including the use of recreational substances.

How is priapism treated?
The first step in treating a prolonged erection is to return the tissue to its normal state. Ice packs may be the first option; numbing the penis and then aspirating the excess blood with a needle may also be carried out in a hospital or clinic setting.

Other options for relieving a prolonged erection include inserting a surgical shunt to divert blood flow or injection of alpha-agonists – medications that cause the blood vessels to narrow and reduce blood flow.

In the case of high-flow priapism, tying off the damaged artery (surgical ligation) may be necessary. Once the erection is under control, the doctor will take steps to determine the underlying cause and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Tips for a healthy penis
While it may not be possible to prevent priapism in all cases, maintaining a healthy penis can help to reduce the risk of a variety of penis issues. Regular health checks and common-sense choices like good nutrition, exercise and adequate hydration can go a long way toward preventing a range of problems that can lead to long-term damage of the penis. In addition, supporting healthy penile tissue with a quality penis health formula (health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil) may help to prevent issues such as oxidative damage of the skin and nerve cells, as well as drying and toughening of the penis skin. Furthermore, nutrients such as vitamin C may support healthy circulatory tissue and promote the repair of damaged blood vessels.

Author's Bio: 

For additional information on most common penis health issues, tips on improving penis sensitivity, and what to do to maintain a healthy penis, visit: http://www.penishealth101.com. John Dugan is a professional writer who specializes in men's health issues and is an ongoing contributing writer to numerous online web sites.