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Learn about your painful erection, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your painful erection from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Painful Erection Checker

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Painful Erection Symptoms

An erection is the stiffening and enlargement of the penis due to increased blood flow. Erections are the result of a complex interplay of psychological, vascular and neural processes that are most often associated with sexual arousal; however, it is important to note that erections can be stimulated by other causes as well.

Erections become painful when they persist. A painful erection is not normal, and this condition is called priapism. In priapism, beyond the pain, the most important painful erection symptom is the duration of the erection. An erection that lasts for more than 4 hours is a medical emergency and needs prompt attention.

Pain often goes hand-in-hand with an erection that persists for longer than normal, but even if you do not experience pain, you must seek medical attention for symptoms of prolonged erection in order to prevent serious complications. Blood trapped in the penis quickly loses oxygen. This oxygen-deprived blood can begin to damage and destroy the tissues of the penis leading to critical conditions such as erectile dysfunction and infertility.

Painful Erection Causes Overview

Painful erections (priapism) occur when there are problems with how blood flows, or circulates, to and from the penis.

Problems in circulation to the penis can be categorized as:

  • Ischemic: blood not able to leave the penis
  • Non-ischemic: blood flow to and from the penis is not regulated properly

Conditions that affect the blood vessels, smooth muscles and nerves of the penis can all affect the circulation to the penis and result in either ischemic or non-ischemic causes of priapism. As a result, the causes of painful erection symptoms are varied and broad. It is very important to see your doctor in order to diagnose the root cause of the issue.

Blood disorders:

  • Functional: Medical conditions that affect the way different components of your blood function – for example, sickle cell anemia, a medical condition that affects the shape of your red blood cells, often results in ischemic priapism.

  • Synthetic: Medical conditions that affect the processes that regulate the production of the different components of the blood can result in ischemic priapism. For example, in leukemia, a condition in which your body makes too many blood cells, ischemic priapism can often occur.

Medications:

  • Prescription Medications: Priapism is a possible side effect of a number of medications that you may be prescribed for other conditions. For example, antidepressants, hypertension medications and medication used to treat erectile dysfunction can all cause painful erection symptoms.
  • Non-prescription medications/drugs: Recreational drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other illicit substances can cause many types of ischemic priapism.

Trauma:

  • Trauma or injury to the penis or pelvic area often causes non-ischemic priapism. Traumatic events can range from serious incidents such as motor vehicle accidents to seemingly benign causes such as an insect bite or sting.
  • Regardless of the cause, traumatic events that lead to painful erection symptoms and penis pain must also be followed up immediately as well.

Top 7 Painful Erection Causes

  1. 1.Urethritis

    Urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine away from the bladder.

    You should visit your physician for an examination. It is likely antibiotics will be used for treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    painful urination, penis pain, fluid leaking, pink/blood-tinged urine, cloudy urine
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Urinary Tract Infection

    Urinary tract infections are bacterial infections of the tube that takes urine from the kidney all the way out of the body.

    You should go to your primary care physician in the next 24 hours to be treated. UTIs are treated with antibiotics. However, diagnosing why you has a UTI will be very important to making sure it doesn't happen again.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, urinary changes, penis pain, sudden urgency to urinate, painful urination
    Symptoms that always occur with urinary tract infection:
    hidden: urinary changes: atrophy or inflammation
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Cushing Syndrome

    Cushing Syndrome is a hormonal disorder. The cause is long-term exposure to too much cortisol, a hormone that the adrenal gland makes. Sometimes, taking synthetic hormone medicine like corticosteroids to treat an inflammatory disease leads to Cushing's syndrome.

    Your treatment will depend on why your have too much cortisol. If it is because you have been taking synthetic hormones, a lower dose may control your symptoms. If the cause is a tumor, surgery and other therapies may be needed, so a doctor's consultation in the near future is best.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, headache, weight gain, back pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  4. 4.Hemochromatosis

    Hemochromatosis is a disease in which too much iron builds up in the body. This can be hereditary or caused by another condition like liver failure.

    You should visit your primary care physician for diagnostic blood tests (too look at your iron stores). Depending on severity, your treatment could range from watchful waiting to lifestyle changes to donating blood to reduce the iron levels.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), joint pain, decreased sex drive, frequent urination
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Gonococcal Urethritis

    Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a germ (bacterium) called the gonococcus. This bacterium is spread by sexual contact, or through transmission during childbirth, and causes inflammation of the urethra, which is the tube that passes urine.

    You should go to a retail clinic to be treated. They may likely refer you to be tested for sexually transmitted infections. If gonorrhea is confirmed, prescription antibiotics will be used for treatment. Please make sure you have protected intercourse until you have been tested.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    painful urination, fluid leaking, redness at the tip of the penis, spontaneous testicle pain, testicular swelling
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Chlamydia (Male)

    Chlamydia is a common bacterial infection that is spread by sexual contact. It can often be carried without symptoms, but can have serious health effects if left untreated.

    You should visit a physician to confirm the diagnosis and begin an antibiotic regiment immediately.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    painful urination, sudden urgency to urinate, testicle pain, fluid leaking, frequent urination
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Epididymitis

    Epididymitis is swelling (inflammation) of the epididymis, a tube that sits on top of the testicle and is involved in making sperm. Most cases of inflammation are due to an infection.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours in order to find out the cause of the infection. If the cause is bacterial, which is common in this condition, antibiotics are prescribed.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, fever, chills, vomiting, pain in one testicle
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

Painful Erection Treatments and Relief

As soon as you notice symptoms of priapism, seek emergency medical care.

The doctor will determine whether your painful erection symptoms are related to ischemic or non-ischemic causes and depending on the cause perform one or more the following treatments:

  • Treatment for ischemic priapism involves draining the blood from the penis and using medications to facilitate blood flow out and away from the penis. Your doctor may do a small procedure using a needle and syringe to drain excess blood from the penis. The medication will constrict the blood vessels that carry blood to the penis (arteries) in order to open up the vessels that allow blood to flow out (veins).
  • Treatment for non-ischemic priapism often does not require direct intervention. The painful erection often goes away with measures such as pressure and ice packs on the affected area.
  • Surgery is only performed when the above treatments are unsuccessful and not often necessary. Your surgeon will perform a procedure that reroutes blood flow and allows the blood to move normally through the penis.

If you experience recurrent painful erection symptoms that resolve on their own, see your doctor. You might need treatment to prevent further episodes.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Painful Erection

  • Q.Do you notice anything going on with your penis?
  • Q.Do you feel pain when you urinate?
  • Q.Are you currently sexually active?
  • Q.Do you notice anything going on with your testicles or scrotum?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our painful erection symptom checker.

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Painful Erection Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced painful erection have also experienced:

    • 17% Painful Urination
    • 10% Painful Ejaculation
    • 7% Painful Sex
  • People who have experienced painful erection were most often matched with:

    • 59% Urethritis
    • 15% Urinary Tract Infection
    • 7% Cushing Syndrome

Painful Erection Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having painful erection.

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