How is priapism diagnosed?

If you have priapism, it is important to get medical care immediately. Tell your doctor:

  • How long you have had the erection.
  • How long your erection usually lasts.
  • If you have used any medication or drugs, legal or illegal. Be honest with your doctor—drug use is especially of interest, since both marijuana and cocaine have been linked to priapism.
  • Whether or not the priapism happened after trauma to that area of the body.

Your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical examination to help determine the cause of priapism.

After the physical exam is complete, the doctor will take a blood gas measurement of the blood from the penis. During this test, a small needle is placed in the penis, some blood is drawn, and then it is sent to a lab for analysis. This provides a clue to the type of priapism, how long the condition has been present, and how much damage has occurred.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/14/2019.


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