What is Peyronie's disease?

Peyronie’s disease is a disorder in which the penis bends or curves because of fibrotic scar, or plaque, that has formed within the penis. Depending on where the plaque is located, the penis will bend up, down, or to the side. In some cases, the plaque develops on both the top and bottom of the shaft, which can cause the penis to become “dented” and shorter.

Who gets Peyronie’s disease?

Peyronie’s disease occurs in about 10 percent of middle-aged men; however, younger and older men can also be affected. In some cases, men who are related tend to develop the disease, which means the disease may be inherited.

A man who has Peyronie’s disease may also have erectile dysfunction (impotence, or difficulty getting and keeping an erection). This may have existed before the onset of penile curvature due to vascular disease or diabetes among other things, or it can be caused by stress from having the disease.

What causes Peyronie’s disease?

The cause of Peyronie’s disease is not entirely clear. Many researchers believe the plaque of Peyronie’s disease can occur after the erect penis has been hit or abnormally bent, most typically during sexual intercourse. It can also develop without an identifiable event as a result of chronic wear and tear during sexual relations.

The elastic outer covering layer (the tunica) of the two erectile chambers in the penis may become more brittle over time. This combination of increased bending of the penis during intercourse as a result of aging or erectile dysfunction, in association with the less elastic tunica layer is felt to potentially cause small cracks or injuries that in some people lead to exaggerated scarring and fibrosis of the area. Scar tissue does not stretch like the normal tunica, and may lead to curvature during erection toward the side of the most prominent scarring.

What are the symptoms of Peyronie’s disease?

The problem cannot be seen while the penis is soft. Symptoms of Peyronie’s disease may develop slowly, or can seem appear overnight. In some men, there is initially pain during an erection.

The pain of Peyronie’s disease is usually mild, and often does not require treatment, but medications like ibuprofen can be used if needed. In most cases, the pain decreases over time, but the bend in the penis related to the fibrotic scar can remain a problem. The erectile curvature can interfere with sexual function if severe enough, and this is most commonly seen when the curvature is greater than 30 degrees.

Peyronie’s disease also commonly makes the erect penis shorter; and this change may be permanent. It does not cause difficultly with voiding.

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