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What Is Priapism and How Does It Relate to Erectile Dysfunction Medications?

It seems like commercials for erectile dysfunction medications always state that individuals should see a doctor if their erection lasts more than a few hours. Why is that? Isn't a long-lasting erection the whole point of medications for ED?

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Erectile dysfunction medications are used to help men get and maintain erections long enough to have sexual intercourse. They all work by increasing blood flow to the penis, allowing an erection to occur when a man becomes aroused. Erectile dysfunction medications will not cause an erection without sexual stimulation.
Erectile dysfunction medications are generally safe and effective for most people. However, they can occasionally cause rare but serious side effects. One of these potentially dangerous side effects is a condition known as priapism.
Priapism is a prolonged and often painful erection that lasts for two to four hours or longer. The condition occurs when blood becomes trapped in the penis, causing it to stay erect, regardless of desire. The erection from priapism occurs even when a man is not having sex, or does not want to have sex.
Some people may have an increased risk for priapism. This includes people with an abnormally shaped penis or Peyronie's disease and people with blood cell problems, such as sickle cell anemia, multiple myeloma, or leukemia. If you have any of these conditions, talk to your healthcare provider about this before taking an erectile dysfunction medication.
While priapism is an infrequent occurrence, it is considered a medical emergency, as it can damage the tissue of the penis, potentially causing disfigurement and permanent erectile dysfunction. Therefore, it is very important to seek immediate medical care if you have an erection lasting more than a few hours.
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