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Medically reviewed by
Constance Tambakis Odom, MD graduated in 1987 with her Doctorate of Medicine from the New York Medical College, and was an Anesthesiologist Resident from 1988 to 1991 at the Brookdale Medical Center PGY II (CA-I)-PGY IV (CA-III). She is Board Certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology since 1998 and American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine since 2002. Constance Odom, MD is affiliated with the American Medical Association, American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, American Society of Anesthesiology, Georgia Society of Anesthesiology, Hellenic Medical Society of New York, North Carolina Society of Anesthesiology, and Society of Ambulatory Anesthesia.
Like all areas of the body, the male genitalia is susceptible to the effects of injury, disease, medications, and other complications. In some cases, the result of these implications is tissue damage. Erectile tissue damage can occur in all of the central erectile tissues, including the corpus cavernosum, corpus spongiosum, and tunica albuginea. Over time, this damage can interfere with the ability to get or keep an erection. This is known as erectile dysfunction and can lead to problems with one’s self-confidence, difficulties in relationships, and immense stress. If you suspect that you may have erectile tissue damage, it is important to identify the signs and discuss them with a doctor.
While erectile tissue damage is the result, there are a wide variety of reasons that the damage may occur. Some of the most common causes include:
Injury: The most common cause of erectile tissue damage is due to sustaining an injury to the penis. While this can mean significant injuries like direct hits, falls, or other accidents, it can also occur through normal activity. It may not be immediately apparent that an injury has occurred as small tears in the tissue can occur over time from things like participating in sports or wearing clothes that fit too tightly. An injury may also result from sexual activity. If the penis bends or is otherwise injured during sex, it can cause the penis to fracture and may eventually lead to tissue damage as it heals.
Peyronie’s Disease: Peyronie's disease is a condition that more than 200,000 men are diagnosed with each year. It is the result of the individual suffering various repetitive injuries to the penis over time. As these injuries heal, scar tissue forms that does not have the same functionality and capabilities as erectile tissue. In turn, the scar tissue causes erections to become painful and the penis develops significant curvature. This is a painful condition that can drastically interfere with the sufferers' life and their ability to perform sexually.
Sexually Transmitted Infections: Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) occur when an individual engages in unprotected sexual activity with another person who has the infection. The infection spreads to the other party and when left untreated, the infection can result in significant damage to the erectile tissue. This is most commonly associated with STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia, but other infections, like yeast infections, can cause damage as well. If you are sexually active, it is wise to use protection during each encounter and to receive regular testing for STIs. In many cases, these infections can go unnoticed by males because there is not always discharge or other noticeable symptoms.
Diabetes: There are two types of diabetes known as Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form and it affects millions of people throughout the country. Essentially, it is a condition in which the pancreas does not produce enough of a hormone known as insulin. Insulin is responsible for transferring glucose (or sugar) from the blood to various cells so that it can be used as energy. When there isn’t enough insulin to do this, the sugars remain in the blood resulting in high blood sugar levels. This can be dangerous and can lead to a number of severe consequences when left uncontrolled. While some of these consequences are extreme, like coma and death, others are less noticeable. One of the less noticeable side effects of diabetes is damage to the blood vessels and nerves. This can include erectile tissue damage, which may lead to Peyronie’s Disease or erectile dysfunction.
Autoimmune Disorders: There are a plethora of specific autoimmune disorders, but the general basis of each one is that they cause the body to attack itself. In men with autoimmune disorders, their immune systems may attack the otherwise healthy erectile tissue. This can lead to significant damage to the tissue. Those who have a known autoimmune disorder should look out for the signs of erectile tissue damage and consult their doctor if they notice problems with getting or maintaining an erection as usual. This cause will require the condition itself to be treated to prevent further damage to the penis.
Other causes of erectile tissue damage are linked to certain medications and treatments that are used to fight cancerous cells. If you have any of these conditions and are experiencing signs of erectile tissue damage, it is important to speak to a doctor. A doctor will be able to help treat the tissue damage, but they will also make sure that you are healthy and that these conditions are well controlled.
Signs of erectile tissue damage can be immediate or they can appear several weeks or months down the road. Oftentimes the biggest warning sign is that an injury to the penis has occurred. Whether a significant blow below the belt was sustained or a minor injury happened during sexual activity, be sure to keep an eye out for the following signs of erectile tissue damage:
Popping Sound - A popping sound that occurs during an injury to the penis indicates that the penis has been fractured. This can also indicate that erectile tissue damage has occurred.
Bruising- After an injury, bruising is to be expected but this can be a sign of tissue damage when it occurs in the male genitalia.
Loss of Erections (Erectile Dysfunction)- During an initial injury, such as one that occurs during sexual activity, an erection may disappear immediately. Afterward, it may be difficult to achieve or maintain an erection as you once did. If an injury is not the cause of tissue damage, this may occur slowly over time instead of rapidly.
Bent or Curved Penis- If a penis appears to bend or curve when it was previously straight, this is a sign of erectile tissue damage. This occurs because the scar tissue that forms is unable to stretch and move in the same manner as the original erectile tissue.
Painful Erections- While some with erectile tissue damage struggle to achieve an erection, others can get them but they are extremely painful. Anytime pain is experienced in the genital region, it’s a good idea to have it investigated by a doctor to rule out significant injury or infection.
Urinary Difficulties- In addition to problems with erections, tissue damage can also cause difficulties to occur during urination. This may make it tough or painful to go or you may notice significant differences in the stream of your urine while you are going.
If you notice any of these signs of erectile tissue damage, it is important to understand that seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. The longer that the condition is left untreated, the harder it becomes to repair. This is because of the fibrous scar tissue that forms in place of the typical tissue within the penis. Essentially, the faster the condition is treated, the better the outcome.
The course of action that a doctor will recommend as a result of erectile tissue damage will largely depend on the cause. If it is the result of a severe injury, it may be necessary to undergo surgery to repair the damage. The surgeon will aim to remove any blood clots and will repair any tears within the tissue to resolve erectile dysfunction or painful erections. Other forms of surgery are utilized as a treatment for painful curvature that may result from tissue damage. With this option, the penis may be lengthened or shortened on one side to straighten out the curve or scar tissue may need to be removed. Aside from surgical methods, injections or medications may be used in instances of certain conditions like Peyronie’s Disease.
When erectile tissue damage is caused by an underlying condition like a sexually transmitted infection (STI), autoimmune disease, or diabetes, it is important to ensure that these conditions are treated and remain well-controlled to prevent further damage to the erectile tissue.
In many cases, those with erectile tissue damage only experience the problem temporarily. In instances of an injury, the damage is typically repaired quickly without any long-term complications through surgery. This is also true of those who experience problems as a result of medications, infections, or uncontrolled conditions like diabetes. When the medications are no longer taken, the infection is cured or the disease becomes well-controlled, erectile tissue damage typically does not continue to affect the lives of these individuals.
Unfortunately, in some cases, the condition is permanent and may cause recurrent problems for the diagnosed male. The biggest long-term effect is the development of the condition known as erectile dysfunction. This can be an ongoing issue that requires additional treatment through medication to help the patient live a normal, sexually active life. Those who are struggling with erectile tissue damage or erectile dysfunction as a result should speak with a medical professional to explore all of the options that are available to them.
Nu Image Medical has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.