What is Peyronie’s disease?
Peyronie’s disease (pay-roh-neez) is when tissue in the penis hardens permanently and a lump of scar tissue (a plaque) forms on the lining of the penis. This hardened area stops the penis from stretching normally during an erection, and can affect its size and shape when erect.
In severe cases, the hardened area can include the muscle and arteries of the penis, leading to problems with erections.
What are the symptoms of Peyronie’s disease?
Peyronie’s disease begins as a small swelling or inflammation, which hardens into a lump on the upper or lower side of the penis. It usually develops over time, but sometimes appears very quickly.
In most cases, you can feel a hard lump at the point where the penis curves.
Peyronie’s can be painful, reduce flexibility, and in most cases will shorten or create a bend in the penis when it’s erect. In some cases, the shape of the penis changes so that there’s an hourglass deformity or constriction to one side.
In the early stages, you might experience pain when getting an erection. In mild cases, where the lump does not cause the penis to bend very much or at all, it will only have a minor effect on how you experience sexual intercourse.
However, moderate or severe Peyronie’s can make sexual intercourse impossible because of the shape of the penis, or problems with getting an erection. In some cases, the penis only becomes hard up to the area of the scar and stays flaccid (not erect) past that point.
You might notice Peyronie’s after an injury to the penis. People with Peyronie’s often describe hearing a loud ‘crack’, followed by pain and bruising, although in many cases you might not remember any injury happening. Usually this type of injury leads to swelling which becomes red and hot, and will heal by itself within a year. Sometimes, recovery takes longer, and scarring can happen.
What causes Peyronie’s disease?
We’re not sure about what causes of Peyronie’s but it’s usually thought to happen after repeated bending or bumping of an erect penis. This tears the lining of tissue in the penis, creating scar tissue that doesn’t heal normally.
A pre-existing problem with your immune system or diabetes could explain why some people develop Peyronie’s after a simple injury to the penis, while others recover from the injury.
Peyronie’s usually happens after puberty, but the most commonly affected age group is between 45 and 60 years.
Peyronie’s lumps are benign (non-cancerous), but they can make erections and normal sexual activity more difficult. Because of this, Peyronie’s can have an effect on your emotional, physical and overall health.
What can I do?
A doctor can usually diagnose Peyronie’s based on your medical history and a physical examination. Lumps can often be seen and felt when the penis isn’t erect. But the penis does need to be erect for the doctor to see how much it’s bending.
To avoid having to get an erection at the doctors, and to help diagnose Peyronie’s, you can take a photo of your erect penis at home to show the doctor.
Not all lumps in the penis are Peyronie’s. Small bumps, cysts and pimples on the outside of the penis and scrotum are also common and usually harmless.
Any persistent or painful cyst with discharge should be checked by a doctor to rule out a sexually transmitted infection.
What treatments are there for Peyronie’s disease?
An ultrasound can be used to show the exact location, size and depth of the hardened area of scar tissue, and to check the blood flow in the penis. It will also show any calcium deposits caused by Peyronie’s. Calcification usually means that Peyronie’s has run its full course, and that the lump isn’t likely to go away or improve. This is useful to know when planning treatment.
Some cases of Peyronie’s don’t require treatment — it either doesn’t become serious enough, or it gets better over time on its own. However, it’s important to see a doctor if you think you might have Peyronie’s. If the curve or pain in the penis continues for more than 12 months, it might require surgery.
Non-surgical treatments for Peyronie’s include oral medicines, injections, shock wave treatments and penis traction (extender) devices.
Your doctor’s appointment
Questions to ask your doctor
What treatment options are available for Peyronie's disease?
What happens if I don't treat the problem?
Things to think about before your appointment
What and when was the first problem you noticed in your penis?
Has your penis changed shape?
Are you having difficulty getting or keeping an erection? Is this painful?
Does a bend in your penis create difficulties with sex?