Peyronie’s disease is a condition that causes a curve in the penis, most noticeable during an erection. It can also cause difficulty and pain during sex — not to mention anxiety and stress. According to the Urology Care Foundation, the disease affects about 6 percent of men, mostly between the ages of 40 and 70, though men in their 30s can also be affected.
While the exact cause of the condition is unknown, there are treatments available to relieve its symptoms.
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Causes of Peyronie’s Disease
In a man with Peyronie’s disease, the penis curves due to a buildup of scar tissue. The scar tissue stays tight and doesn’t stretch during an erection, which causes the penis to curve or narrow at the shaft and have an hourglass shape.
Doctors aren’t sure why the scar tissue develops, but it could be due to injury from an accident, sports, or sex. However, it can also develop in men with no history of trauma or injury. Genetics may also play a role; if your father had Peyronie’s, it’s possible you could develop it, too. The disease isn’t spread through sex and isn’t connected to cancer.
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Symptoms of Peyronie’s Disease
A curve in the penis with an erection is the most common and recognizable symptom of the disease. The curve may seem to appear out of nowhere or can develop over time. Sometimes, especially during an erection, the scar tissue buildup can cause pain.
Other symptoms include:
- A lump along the shaft
- Difficulty keeping an erection
- A shortened penis
Symptoms may resolve on their own, come and go, or continue and even worsen over time. In some cases, symptoms are mild enough not to interfere with sex or cause pain. However, if the curvature makes penetration difficult, or impossible, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Peyronie’s Disease Treatment
While the disease isn’t curable, treatment can improve your symptoms. Peyronie’s disease treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Your doctor may suggest medical treatment if your condition is less severe, or surgery if it’s more extreme. A mild case that doesn’t interfere with sex may simply be monitored to make sure it doesn’t get worse.
Various medicines, taken orally or injected into the penis, can help correct the curve and reduce pain. These medicines include:
- Collagenase: Breaks down collagen that causes the curve
- Verapamil: Blocks the production of collagen
- Interferon: Breaks down tissue that can cause a lump and curvature
- Pentoxifylline: May reduce scar tissue
Your doctor may recommend surgery if you have severe curvature that’s interfering with your quality of life or ability to be intimate. Because the curvature may worsen over time before stabilizing, your doctor may recommend waiting to have surgery until you haven’t seen any changes for at least six months.
Surgical techniques include:
- Plication: The surgeon stitches up the unaffected side to reduce the penile curvature. This procedure may cause the penis to look shorter.
- Incision and grafting: The surgeon cuts the scar tissue, allowing the penis to straighten. A graft — made from your own tissue, donor tissue, or synthetic material — is then placed over the cuts. This procedure might worsen erectile dysfunction.
- Penile implant or prosthesis: In cases of severe Peyronie’s disease combined with erectile dysfunction, your doctor may suggest an implant or prosthesis for sex.
Depending on the type of procedure you have, you may be able to go home the same day, or you may have a short hospital stay. You’ll likely be able to return to work within a few days of surgery, but you’ll need to avoid sexual activity for about two months.
The UPMC Department of Urology treats all manners of conditions involving the urinary tract and male reproductive organs. We treat those disorders both in children and adults. We have a multifaceted team of physicians and researchers working together to provide the best care. We provide cutting-edge treatments, and we continue to lead research into even better methods for diagnosis and treatment. U.S. News & World Report ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as among the best hospitals in the country for urological care.