What Is It?
Peyronie's disease is a curve in the penis.
Many men have a slight curve in the penis. As long as there is no pain or problem with sexual performance, men with a slightly curved penis should not be concerned and do not need to see a doctor.
However, some men develop a more serious bend in the penis that interferes with sexual function or causes pain. This occasionally happens after the penis is injured, either during intercourse or from a motor vehicle or industrial accident. Most cases, however, are the result of a poorly understood process known as Peyronie's disease.
In Peyronie's disease, inflammation and scar tissue form along the shaft of the penis. No one is certain why this problem occurs, but it may be triggered by repeated mild trauma during sexual intercourse. You may feel the inflammation and scar tissue as a painful lump or area of unusual firmness. In many men, the scar tissue causes the penis to bend or shorten because it prevents the penis from expanding normally. Men with Peyronie's often have difficulty achieving a firm erection, but it is unclear whether this occurs first or is caused by the scar tissue.
Peyronie's disease may occur in up to 1% of the population. Most men with the problem are between the ages of 45 and 60. The disease runs in families and appears more common in white men. In 30 % of men, Peyronie's is associated with the formation of scar tissue in other parts of the body, including the palms of the hands (Dupuytren's contracture), the soles of the feet (plantar fibromatosis) and the eardrums (tympanosclerosis).
Sometimes, a serious curvature of the penis is seen in boys at or shortly after birth. This is not Peyronieâs disease. Most of these cases are thought to be caused by abnormal development in the womb, and may be associated with other abnormalities of the penis such as a condition called hypospadias, in which the opening of the penis is not at the tip.
About half of men with Peyronie's disease will first notice pain during intercourse. Symptoms may appear suddenly, or may develop slowly over time. Often the penis will feel firm or lumpy at the painful site. Other men with Peyronie's will notice a painless curve of the penis that can occur suddenly or get worse over time. The penis may curve up, down or to either side. Severe changes in the shape of the penis may prevent the man from having intercourse. Men usually seek help from their doctors because of difficulty with intercourse rather than the curvature itself.
If the penis has been injured by sudden trauma, most men will be able to recall the event. Often there will be a sensation or sound of a "snap" followed by loss of erection and the appearance of a bruise. Part of the penis will remain painful for a time, but usually the area will heal over time. However, scar tissue may form and cause a new curvature. This problem is different from Peyronie's, and rarely results in difficulties with erections or shortening of the penis.