Prolonged Erections - What They Are and What To Do If You Have One?

Many of you might have heard stories of the less positive long-lasting effects of viagra or other similar substances, where the individual has an erection that won’t go away for hours. While it might seem funny, however, a prolonged erection without any sexual intentions or no sign of calming down can be a serious matter.

In this article, let’s take a look at prolonged erections, specifically, what are prolonged erections, what causes them, and what you should do if you have a prolonged erection.


What is a Prolonged Erection, aka Priapism?

Priapism, commonly known as prolonged erections, is a disorder where the penis stays erect for hours without sexual stimulation. This happens when there is a blood flow issue in the penis and the blood is unable to circulate properly. The blood flow issue can be caused by blood diseases  improper blood flow in the vessels, a problem with contractions in the muscles, or even the nerves in the penis.

Depending on the types of priapism, there might be some variations to the symptoms and causes of a prolonged erection.

What Causes Prolonged Erections?


While prolonged erections are not common, they could happen to any penis, regardless of how old you are. males of all ages. There are two main types of priapism, ischemic (low-flow) and nonischemic (high-flow) priapism. Depending on the type of priapism you have, there are different causes.

Low-flow priapism often occurs when blood is stuck in the erection chambers and is unable to leave the penis. Or there might be a problem with the contraction of the smooth muscles in the penis. Most prolonged erections are low-flow priapism. This type of priapism includes recurrent priapism or stuttering priapism, where prolonged erection can happen more than once. Recurrent priapism is rare and only seen in men with sickle cell anemia, leukemia, malaria, or other blood disorders. It is said that 42% of the people who have sickle cell anemia experience priapism at some point in their lives.

Symptoms of low-flow priapism include:

  • Erections lasting for more than 4 hours
  • Rigid penile shaft with a soft tip
  • Pain in the penis 

High-flow priapism or nonischemic priapism is rarer. It is usually caused by a ruptured artery from an injury or trauma to the penis or the area between the scrotum and anus; thus leading to the blood being unable to circulate properly. Unlike low-flow priapism, high-flow can be less painful and the erection might not be fully rigid. In this case, the penile tissue can continue to receive some blood flow and oxygen.

Aside from the causes mentioned above, priapism can also occur due to other factors that might affect blood flow such as: 

  • Medications including erectile dysfunction medication, medications for anxiety disorders, antidepressants, and blood thinners
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Black widow spider bites
  • Metabolism disorder
  • Neurogenic disorder
  • Rare cases of cancers involving the penis
  • Trauma to the spinal cord or genital area
  • Drug use such as marijuana and cocaine etc. 

Now that we know what it is and what could be causing it, it is more important to know what to do if you have a prolonged erection. 


What To Do If You Have a Prolonged Erection?

A prolonged erection can be quite painful. The trapped blood in the penis is deprived of oxygen due to not being circulated. If an erection lasts for too long (more than 4 hours) the lack of oxygen can cause tissue damage in your penis, which can even lead to erectile dysfunction.

While it might be embarrassing or stressful to go to the doctor for a prolonged erection, a prolonged erection can become a serious medical issue. It is best to seek professional medical help as soon as possible. So if you have the symptoms of prolonged erection, or there is pain, please seek medical help immediately to receive appropriate treatment.


Although prolonged erections are not common, you never know when such an event might happen to you, so it is better to be prepared with the knowledge of what to look for and what to do, just in case. It might seem funny thinking about it, but prolonged erections are no laughing matter. If you do experience pain in your penis or are having an unprovoked erection for a long period of time (4 hours or more), please go to emergency care. The trapped blood in your penis can cause unforeseeable damage if not treated properly.

Hopefully, this article will be helpful for you. Check out our other articles such as is it bad that there’s blood when masturbating, or more about erectile dysfunction to learn more about ensuring a healthy penis.

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