Posts Tagged ‘fibrous plaques’

Peyronie’s Disease: Not the Kind of Curve You Want

May 23, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD  5/23/15


(Thank you, Pixabay, for above image)

Peyronie’s Disease is an inflammatory condition of the penis that causes curvature and an uncomfortable or painful erection. It is not uncommon– 65,000-120,000 cases per year in the USA–with only a small fraction of those who have the disease actually seeking treatment. Although it can occur at any age, it most commonly is seen in 50-60 year-olds. Essentially, it is scar tissue in a bad location, which sabotages the ability to obtain a straight and rigid erection, resulting in a dramatic interference with one’s sexual and psychological health.

Why Is Penile Curvature Called Peyronie’s Disease?

Most people assume that Peyronie’s disease is named after poor Monsieur Peyronie, who not only was afflicted with the disease, but also was further disgraced by having the disease named after him. The truth of the matter is that Peyronie’s disease is named after the French surgeon, de la Peyronie, who first described it in 1743.

How Do You Know If You Have Peyronies?

Peyronie’s Disease causes fibrous, inelastic “plaques” of the sheath surrounding the erectile chambers that reside within the penis. This results in deformities of the penis during erections, including the presence of a hard lump(s), shortening, curvature and bending, narrowing, a visual indentation of the penis described as an hour-glass deformity and pain with erections as well as less rigid erections.  Penile pain, curvature, and poor expansion of the erectile chambers contribute to difficulty in having a functional and anatomically correct rigid erection suitable for intercourse. The curvature can range from a very minor, barely noticeable deviation to a deformity that requires “acrobatics” to achieve vaginal penetration to an erection that is so angulated that intercourse is impossible. The angulation can occur in any direction and sometimes involves more than one angle, depending on the number, location and extent of the scarring. Although the scarring is physical, it often has psychological ramifications, causing anxiety and depression.

What Causes It And What Can You Expect In The Future?

The underlying cause of Peyronies is unclear, but is suspected to be penile trauma—perhaps associated with excessive bending and buckling from sexual intercourse—that activates an abnormal scarring process. During acute Peyronies, erections are painful and there is an evolving scar, curvature and deformity. The chronic phase occurs up to 18 months or so after initial onset and at which time the pain and inflammation resolve, the curvature and deformity stabilize, and often erectile dysfunction is noted. Peyronie’s regresses in about 15% of men, progresses in 40% of untreated men, and remains stable in 45% of men. Many men become very self-conscious about the appearance of their penis and the limitations it causes, and they may avoid sex entirely.

Is Peyronie’s Treatable?

Treatment options include oral medications, topical agents, injections of medications into the scar tissue, shock wave therapy, and surgery. Upon initial diagnosis, most men are started on oral Vitamin E, 400 IU daily, as this has the potential to soften the scar tissue causing the plaque. Many of the aforementioned treatments are not particularly effective because scar tissue is a challenging problem. Erectile dysfunction can be often be managed with ED medications.

Xiaflex—a.k.a. collagenase—derived from the clostridium bacteria, is the newest treatment for Peyronies. It has been used for years for Dupuytren’s contracture, a similar situation to Peyronie’s that occurs on the hand, causing a scarring of the tissue beneath the skin of the palm and fingers, making it very difficult to straighten one’s fingers. Xiaflex functions as a “chemical knife” by dissolving collagen, the main constituent of scar tissue. It is typically used for men with an angulation of 30 degrees or more. It is injected directly into the scar tissue after which the area is massaged and modeled to disrupt the scar tissue and mold the penis. One course of treatment may involve as many as eight injections. Injection of this medication can be highly effective, but is not without side effects including bruising, swelling, pain and possibly rupture of the erectile chamber of the penis causing a penile fracture.

If there is an unsatisfactory response to conservative managements, a penile implant may be appropriate. This can manage the dual problems of erectile dysfunction and penile angulation. If erections are adequate, but angulation prevents intercourse, options include doing a “nip and tuck” opposite the plaque in an effort to make expansion more symmetrical. Although this technique is effective in improving the angulation, it does so at the cost of penile shortening. Other more complex procedures involve incising or removing the scar tissue and using grafting material to replace the tissue defect.

Bottom Line: When scar tissue occurs on an area of the body that moves, expands or acts as a channel, it affects function as well as form. Thus a scarred elbow can impact mobility, scarred lungs can disturb breathing, a scarred bile duct can cause jaundice and scarred erectile chambers can cause Peyronie’s. The good news is that mild Peyronie’s does not need to be treated and if more severe forms occur that interfere with one’s quality of life, there are effective means to treat it.  


Wishing you the best of health and a great Memorial Day weekend!

2014-04-23 20:16:29


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