Peyronie’s disease is a condition in which the penis develops an abnormal bend or curve. Untreated, it can lead to sexual dysfunction and other complications.

About 5–10% of men develop Peyronie’s disease due to a buildup of plaque in the penis. Some other health conditions can make it more likely that you’ll develop Peyronie’s disease. Often, it’s the result of an injury.

In some cases, Peyronie’s can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED), inability to have penetrative intercourse or other problems. And over time, you might experience emotional distress or relationship difficulties.

If you suspect you have Peyronie’s, consider visiting a primary care doctor or urologist. Early treatment could help you avoid some complications of Peyronie’s disease.

Peyronie’s disease has to do with fibrous scar tissue, also known as plaque. As it builds up, it can cause the penis to curve. In time, this can lead to various physical complications such as:

  • pain with an erection or during intercourse
  • inability to have penetrative intercourse due to the curvature
  • inability to achieve or hold an erection (ED)
  • losing some penile length
  • sexual dissatisfaction
  • difficulty fathering a child due to problems with intercourse (it doesn’t affect fertility)

There are also some potential psychological complications, such as:

  • anxiety and self-esteem issues over appearance or sexual performance
  • strain on intimate relationships or lack of intimacy
  • lower quality of life

About 80% of men with Peyronie’s disease report emotional distress. And almost half experience some level of depression.

Some other health conditions may increase the risk of developing Peyronie’s disease. These include:

  • diabetes, especially if you have diabetes-related ED
  • connective tissue disorders such as Dupuytren’s disease, plantar fasciitis, and scleroderma
  • autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren’s syndrome, and Behçet’s disease
  • hypogonadism (a condition in which the gonads don’t produce enough hormones)
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • obesity

Some other contributing risk factors are:

  • family history of Peyronie’s disease
  • prostate cancer surgery
  • sexual and nonsexual activities that result in micro-injuries to the penis
  • heavy smoking

Men diagnosed with Peyronie’s disease may also have a higher risk of developing other health conditions, according to a 2018 cohort study. These include:

  • benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate)
  • prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate)
  • lower urinary tract symptoms
  • keloids (thick, raised scars)

If you’re not bothered by it, you don’t necessarily need to treat it. And some mild cases may improve without treatment. But if Peyronie’s is causing problems, some potential benefits of treatment are:

  • restoring erectile function
  • correcting or lessening the curvature
  • preserving penis length
  • improving sexual satisfaction
  • easing emotional distress

There are two phases of disease. The acute phase lasts about 18 months or so. This is when most changes occur. It’s also when less invasive procedures are likely to help.

Then, you enter the chronic phase. That’s when plaque and curvature tend to stabilize. It generally won’t get much worse. It’s also not likely to get better without treatment.

Aside from phase, other factors that help guide treatment are:

  • your symptoms
  • degree of curvature
  • personal goals and preferences

Pharmacological treatments

Doctors can often treat Peyronie’s without surgery during the acute phase. This treatment may include injecting medication directly into the plaque. Some options are:

  • Collagenase (Xiaflex): An enzyme that helps break down plaques, collagenase is the only medication with FDA approval for the treatment of Peyronie’s disease. Two large, double-blind studies show that it can safely and effectively reduce curvature.
  • Verapamil: Although it’s a high blood pressure medication, verapamil may help reduce pain and improve curvature. However, studies confirming this are limited.
  • Interferons: Interferons are proteins that may help break down and slow the buildup of scar tissue, which may help reduce pain and curving.

Non-pharmacological treatments

Some non-pharmacological therapies include:

  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy: An ultrasound-based procedure performed in a doctor’s office, shockwave therapy may help relieve pain. But it doesn’t affect plaque or curvature.
  • Penile traction therapy: This involves placing the penis on traction for 30 to 90 minutes a day, which may help reduce the curvature.
  • Vacuum pump devices: These devices may slightly reduce pain and curvature. But they don’t improve erectile function.

Surgical treatments

If you reach the chronic stage and still have problems, surgical options include:

  • Grafting: The surgeon removes the plaque and replaces it with tissue from another part of the body.
  • Plication: The surgeon takes a piece of fibrous connective tissue (tunica albuginea) from the opposite side of the penis to help straighten it out.
  • Penile implant: The surgeon implants a device into the penis that helps straighten it during an erection.

It’s important to discuss all the potential benefits and risks of each treatment with your doctor.

The outlook for Peyronie’s disease is generally good. Peyronie’s disease doesn’t interfere with urination or cause infertility. It doesn’t affect other parts of the body and is not life threatening.

Though most changes happen within the first 18 months, complications of Peyronie’s disease sometimes worsen over time. With treatment, you may be able to improve curvature, erectile function, and prevent loss of penis length.

Treatment for Peyronie’s disease is evolving. And research on safe, effective therapies is ongoing.

Without treatment, Peyronie’s disease can lead to complications such as sexual dysfunction and emotional distress. But there are some minimally invasive treatments that may help improve symptoms before complications set in.

If you notice a new curve to your penis, consider seeing a doctor sooner rather than later. Once you have a diagnosis, you can learn the potential benefits and risks of each treatment and how best to manage Peyronie’s disease.