Peyronie’s disease is a rare condition that can negatively impact or even impair sexual function because of a curvature of the penis caused by a buildup of scar tissue. While every man is unique, this condition goes far beyond just a slight curve and causes symptoms that can range from mild to severe and wreak havoc on a man’s sex life as well as his self-esteem.
A plaque buildup can develop on the bottom or top of the penis under the skin, often starting with localized inflammation that becomes hardened. This hard fibrous scarring leads to reduced flexibility so that erection forces the penis to bend as it becomes erect, leading to discomfort, pain, and an inability to have sex.
Most often the first symptom of Peyronie’s disease is a hardening of the tissue beneath the skin, usually along the shaft of the penis. This hardening can feel either smooth or like a lump and is most often noticed before any other symptoms and in many cases goes unnoticed until other symptoms occur with an erection.
With Peyronie’s, erections can bring on the following symptoms:
- a bend or curve of the penis, usually starting where the hardened scar tissue was felt before erection
- a decrease in length and girth of the penis
- pain that can range from mild to severe
- pain during intercourse
- problems achieving penetration during sex
Along with the physical symptoms of this rare disease, there are also some common emotional symptoms. An inability to maintain an erection or to have sex can take a toll on a man’s self-esteem, all of which can cause problems in his relationships, as well.
Diagnosing Peyronie’s Disease
Diagnosing the disease requires a physical examination by a health professional. Since fracture and other injuries of the penis can cause scarring and hardening of tissue, as can some medical treatments like radiation, diagnosis will require an examination during erection. Examining a flaccid penis will confirm the presence of hard tissue, but only examination of the erection can confirm that the hardening is related to Peyronie’s disease. A photo taken of your erection may be enough. Your doctor can give you an injection of medication that will cause an erection if needed.
Experiencing new pain on or in the penis, bruising or swelling of the penis, or penis pain during or after intercourse, could also indicate Peyronie’s disease or another medical problem. See a doctor immediately if you experience any of these.
In some cases, the symptoms of Peyronie’s disease will resolve on its own or remain mild enough to not require any treatment. Often doctors will suggest that you wait up to a year before opting for treatment in the hope that the condition will resolve on its own first. For those who have severe discomfort or experience problems maintaining an erection or having sex because of an extreme curvature of the penis, treatment may be considered sooner rather than later. There are several treatment options available:
- corticosteroid injections into the hardened tissue
- verampamil, which is an injection of medication commonly used in the treatment of high blood pressure
- interferon alpha 2-B
- lithotripsy, which is a type of shock wave therapy
- potassium aminobenzoate (Brands include Potaba, M2 Potassium)
The effectiveness of these treatments varies from person to person, and some of the potential side effects can even lead to impotence. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, verapamil and interferon alpha-2b have been shown to diminish curvature of the penis, while other treatments such as steroids have been shown to have unwanted side effects, such as death of healthy tissue. Choosing the right treatment for you will require working closely with an urologist and may require trying more than one type of treatment.