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Sexual Health Overview (cont.)

What is retrograde ejaculation, and how is it treated?

A form of male sexual dysfunction, retrograde ejaculation means the ejaculate fluid that normally leaves the penis during orgasm takes a wrong biological turn and ends up depositing in the bladder. Here it mixes with urine and eventually leaves the body as a waste product. The problem isn't harmful unless the couple is trying to conceive. Retrograde ejaculation can occur either partially or completely. In either instance the cause is frequently linked to prior prostate or urethral surgery, diabetes, and the use of certain drugs including medications for high blood pressure. Controlling blood sugar can help improve the problem, as can some epinephrine-like drugs. Sometimes switching blood pressure medications also works.

Is having an erection for an extended period of time dangerous?

A lot depends on your definition of "extended." The condition itself is known as priapism and it's defined, in clinical terms, as an erection that lasts four hours or more without sexual stimulation. Normally, stimulation causes blood to flow into the penis, which in turn results in an erection. After ejaculation -- or if stimulation is discontinued -- the blood drains and the erection recedes. When priapism occurs, blood that is sent to fill the penis becomes trapped, causing the erection to remain without relief. Not only can this be extremely painful, if not treated early on it can result in scarring inside the penis, and sometimes, permanent erectile dysfunction. Priapism can occur in any male, even newborns, but most commonly develops between the ages of 5 and 10 years old, and 20 and 50 years old. Treatment can be as simple as applying ice packs, or may involve injecting the penis with medications, or removing blood from the penis to reduce pain and swelling. Occasionally surgery is necessary to restore proper blood flow and drainage.


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