Painful Erections in Men: What You Need to Know

Painful Erections in Men: What You Need to Know
Published : Jun 13, 2024

Priapism is considered a painful erection that lasts for several hours. It happens when blood remains in the male reproductive organ and is not able to drain. This condition can occur without cause or maybe the result of an underlying condition, the use of erectile dysfunction medicines, or an injury. Use an erection that appears under sexual arousal, enlarges the penile tissues, and ensures hard erections. At the same time, some men can get erections during sleep, known as (nocturnal penile tumescence).

As a man, if you suffer from a painful erection, seek immediate medical help to avoid permanent damage to the male sexual organ. No matter what the cause of your penile discomfort is, it is an alarming condition that needs to be stopped.

Types of Priapism

There are three main types of Priapism a male can face: Ischemic priapism, Stuttering priapism, and nonischemic priapism.

Ischemic Priapism: Also known as low-flow Priapism, in it the blood is not able to leave the penis. As a result, blood gets trapped in the penis due to contraction of smooth muscles within the erectile tissue. Blood-related diseases can contribute to conditions like Priapism (painful or prolonged erection), usually ischemic Priapism. Blood disorders having the risk of Priapism include Sickle cell disease, Leukemia, and other blood diseases (hematologic dyscrasias), such as multiple myeloma and thalassemia.

Recurrent(Stuttering) Priapism: It's a type of low-flow Priapism, and it might repeatedly appear and come back with a long-lasting erection. Also, it can last longer and grow more painful each time it comes back and seems progressive.

Nonischemic Priapism: Also known as High-flow Priapism, is quite rare compared to other types of Priapism, and usually, it's not painful. Causes of high-flow Priapism include an injury to the penis or the area between your scrotum and anus(perineum). The injury can cause uncontrolled blood flow into the penile tissue, which might lead to long-lasting erections.

Symptoms of painful erection

Pain is the main symptom of Priapism, or painful erection. Depending on the underlying cause, pain can differ, including:

  • Your pain can range from dull to severe.

  • You can experience pain in particular parts of the male sexual organ or the entire shaft.

  • The pain might be felt as you get an erection or only during sexual activity.

  • Pain can occur when you have an erection or only during night-time erections(sleep-related painful erection(SREF).

Causes of painful erection

There are several common and uncommon causes of painful erections. Some of which can be treated more easily than others. Priapism is a rare condition, but due to certain health conditions, it becomes more likely to appear. The condition occurs due to changes in the normal blood flow in the erectile function than usual. In up to 30% to 45% of people, conditions like sickle cell disease are more likely to cause Priapism symptoms. Here are some conditions that might increase the risk of Priapism in males:

Peyronie's disease

Peyronie's disease is a disorder that most affects older people. During this condition, the male sexual organ develops an abnormal curve suddenly. The buildup of scars in the penile tissues causes it. The main cause behind this is a history of mild sexual trauma or injury to the male reproductive organ.

PD or Peyronie's disease can lead to pain during erections because of shortened membrane stretching. Depending on the seriousness of Peyronie's disease, you can feel pain when getting an erection or during sexual activity. Also, Peyronie's disease can have the risk of permanent erectile dysfunction in some cases.

Risk factors of Peyronie's disease include:

  • Diabetes

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • A family history of Peyronie's disease

  • Having an autoimmune disorder

  • Connective tissue disorders

  • Had prostate cancer surgery

Penile fracture

Penile fracture is the rupture of fibrous membrane that surrounds corpora cavernosa, known as tunica albuginea. The leading cause of penile fracture is blunt force trauma to the male sexual organ during sexual intercourse or aggressive masturbation.

A penile fracture is a medical emergency that can lead to changes in male sexual organs, loss of ability to sustain an erection, and problems in urinating.


Sexually transmitted infections can make you suffer from pelvic or penile discomfort. However, it is not yet clear whether STIs lead to male sexual organ pain when erect.

Complicated urinary tract infections in men, which affect the kidneys, urethra, and bladder, can also lead to symptoms of penile or pelvic pain. This further makes you suffer from pain while urinating or genital pain.

Penile tumors

When the benign tumor is formed on a blood vessel or nerve of the male sexual organ, painful erections are caused. During an erection, penile tumors can press on your nearby nerve and cause acute pain or discomfort.

Friction burn

Sexual activity with a partner might not rub the skin off the male reproductive organ, but you might still experience friction burn on your male sexual organ. When skin comes in contact with a hard object, it can be rubbed and cause heat burn.

Hard flaccid syndrome

Hard flaccid syndrome happens when the male reproductive organ is constantly partially hard while still soft, preventing it from becoming fully erect even after being sexually stimulated. Men suffering from hard flaccid syndrome experience penile pain while standing.

Treatment of painful erection or Priapism

If you are experiencing painful erections, talk to a doctor immediately. When a painful erection lasts for four or more hours, it is a medical emergency. You should know that prolonged erections require immediate medical treatment to prevent any damage to the male sexual organ.

Treatment of painful erection differs depending on the condition. Some common therapies of Priapism include:

Injections help to soften Peyronie's disease plaques. A doctor might remove them in severe cases.

If you have Peyronie's disease, then you may try soft tissue massage techniques at home. These specific massages can help improve scar tissue mobilization.

Draining blood from the male reproductive organ with a needle helps to decrease an erection if you suffer from Priapism. A doctor might prescribe medicine to reduce the amount of blood flow to the male sexual organ.

If you have UTIs and STIs such as syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, the doctor can suggest antibiotics. To treat balanitis, antibiotics, and antifungal medicines are prescribed.


Therefore, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider and get the proper treatment for painful erections. Make sure you get the treatment on time to enjoy sexual activity and prevent severe problems.


Will masturbating make Priapism go away?

No, Masturbation, even with ejaculation, cannot eliminate asexuality.

Why does it hurt when I get an erection?

Having pain in the erection can be a sexual dysfunction that can lead to pain during an ejaculation. Also, it might appear in erectile dysfunction. However, it may occur due to primarily direct trauma to the penile area.