Peyronie's Disease: What It Is and How to Manage It

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Peyronie's disease (also called penile curvature) is a connective tissue disorder involving the growth of fibrous plaques, or scarring, in the soft tissue of the penis. This condition is estimated to affect between 1 and 23 percent of men between ages 40 and 70, although many cases go unreported.

How does Peyronie's disease occur?

Specifically, scar tissue forms in the thick sheath of tissue surrounding the dilatable spaces of the penis that fill with blood and become distended with erection. The condition, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), causes pain, abnormal curvature, erectile dysfunction, indentation, and shortening of the penis.

While the exact cause of Peyronie's disease isn't clear, it is generally believed that it is a wound-healing disorder that prevents tissues in the penis from healing properly and that the disease is activated by injury to the penis. The injury can be a significant trauma or the accumulation of minor ones, like those that occur during normal sexual intercourse.

Can Peyronie's disease be treated?

For many, the disease changes over time, but it does not go away. It usually occurs in two phases: the acute (or active) phase, when the most changes in the penis occur and the pain is most acute, and the chronic (or stable) phase, when the pain may subside substantially and changes cease to occur. In rare cases, Peyronie's disease resolves on its own within 12-18 months without any form of medical treatment.

A variety of treatments have been used, but none have been especially effective. Complete success from invasive surgery tends to average 50-60 percent, and in about one-third of the cases, the condition returns after a number of years.

According to the NIH, treatment options for Peyronie's disease include:

  • An FDA-approved nonsurgical prescription treatment in the form of an injection
  • Oral medications
  • Therapies, such as radiation therapy, to break up scarring
  • Mechanical traction or vacuum devices
  • Surgery (may be recommended in certain long-term cases)

Unfortunately, due to the number of cases that go undiagnosed and untreated by specially trained urologists, some men have resorted to gimmicks and even harmful tactics. Make sure to talk to your doctor about which treatment plan is right for you.