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Peyronie's Disease

What is Peyronie's disease?

Peyronie's disease is characterized by a plaque, or hard lump, that forms on the erection tissue of the penis. The plaque often begins as an inflammation that may develop into a fibrous tissue.

Peyronie's disease was first described in 1743 by a French surgeon, François de la Peyronie. It was classified as a form of impotence. However, now impotence is recognized as one factor associated with Peyronie's disease, but is not always present.

What causes Peyronie's disease?

Some researchers believe Peyronie's disease develops following a trauma that causes bleeding inside the penis. This trauma may explain acute cases of Peyronie's disease, but does not explain why most cases develop slowly, or what causes the disease after no apparent traumatic event.

Generally, when the disease heals within a year or so, the plaque does not advance beyond an initial inflammatory phase. However, when the disease lasts for years, the plaque often becomes a tough, fibrous tissue, and calcium deposits may form.

What are the symptoms of Peyronie's disease?

The plaque in Peyronie's disease is benign, or non-cancerous. The following are the most common symptoms of Peyronie's disease. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Plaque on the top of the shaft, which is the most common condition, causes the penis to bend upward.
  • Plaque on the underside causes the penis to bend downward.
  • In cases where the plaque develops on both top and bottom, indentation and shortening of the penis may occur.
  • Pain, bending, and emotional distress can prohibit sexual intercourse.
  • Painful erections may occur.

The symptoms of Peyronie's disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is Peyronie's disease diagnosed?

A diagnosis of Peyronie's disease is usually made when men seek medical attention for painful erections and difficulty with intercourse. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Peyronie's disease may include the following:

  • ultrasound examination of the penis - a diagnostic technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs.
  • color Doppler examination - a type of ultrasound that uses sound waves to measure the flow of blood through a blood vessel; waveforms of the blood flow are shown on the ultrasound screen (to evaluate erectile function, anatomy, and blood flow).

Treatment for Peyronie's disease:

Specific treatment for Peyronie's disease will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

In general, the goal of treatment is to keep the patient with Peyronie's disease sexually active. Providing education about the disease and its course is often included in the treatment plan. In some cases, treatment is not necessary, as Peyronie's disease often occurs in a mild form that heals without treatment in 6 to 15 months. Treatment may include:

  • prescribing or continuing palliative methods
  • surgery
  • vitamin E
    Small studies have reported improvements with oral vitamin E prescribed by a physician; however, larger controlled studies have not been completed to establish the effectiveness of this treatment.
  • injections of various chemical agents into the plaques
    Injections of various chemical agents into the plaques have been utilized in a small number of patients, and, for this reason, this intervention is considered unproven; unwanted side effects may occur.
  • radiation therapy
    With this treatment approach, radiation is aimed at the plaque to reduce pain, but does not affect the plaque itself; unwanted side effects or worsening of the disease may occur.

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