Peyronie’s disease can be defined as the hardening of tissue in the penis that causes penile deformity and painful erections. The disease was named after François de la Peyronie, surgeon to King Louis XV of France) who first discovered Peyronie’s disease in 1743.
Statistics of Peyronie’s disease are alarming!
Peyronie’s disease is not uncommon. Surveys have indicated that its incidence ranges from less than 1 percent to 23 percent. It is also estimated that one in every hundred men, develop this disease. However, the disease remains hidden / undiscovered in many men while they still have this disorder who are either unable to notice it or are too shy to discuss the concern with the others.
Main risk factors for Peyronie’s disease
Middle / old age: Peyronie’s disease usually affects men aged between 45 – 60 years, but can happen at any age.
Heredity: Peyronie’s disease runs in the families as well. Men with a family history of Peyronie’s disease are more likely to develop this problem.
White race: It Peyronie’s disease is more common in white men with Northern European ancestry. It is uncommon in African- American men and rare in Asian men.
Causes of Peyronie’s disease
While it is still not really known what causes Peyronie’s disease, trauma, genetics or auto-immune factors or a combination of these factors has been suggested as the number one possible cause.
Genetics: Peyronie’s disease tends to run in the families, which suggests that genetic factors might make a man vulnerable to the disease. In fact, men having blood relatives with this problem are more likely to develop PD, which suggests that there are genetic factors involved.
Mechanical injury: Studies have shown that the plaque of Peyronie’s disease develops following trauma, such as hitting or bending that causes localized bleeding inside the penis. Sometimes Peyronie’s disease follows an obvious injury to the penis, such as a sporting incident, motor vehicle accident or pelvic or urologic surgery. Injury can also be caused, even without realizing, during sexual activity, when the penis is pushed or bent against the partner’s pelvic bone.
Self-immunity: The body cells responsible for maintaining immunity of the body against foreign invaders (e.g. virus, bacteria) begin to destroy the body itself and result in several changes in various body parts including penis. It should be noted that Peyronie’s disease is not contagious i.e. is not transmitted through contact of any kind (is not infectious).
Signs & symptoms of Peyronie’s disease
Small swelling: Peyronie’s disease begins as a small swelling or inflammation which hardens into a lump on the upper or lower side of the penis.
Slow & progressive: It usually develops over time but sometimes appears very quickly.
Painful erections: It can be painful, reduce flexibility, and in some cases shorten or create a bend or hour-glass effect in the penis when erect.
Erectile dysfunction (impotency): Some men find it difficult to get or keep erections, or the penis only becomes rigid up to the area of the scar and remains flaccid past that point.
Diagnosis of Peyronie’s disease
Peyronie’s disease can be easily diagnosed based on a physical examination. The plaque / swelling can be felt when the penis is limp. Full evaluation, however, may require examination during erection to determine the severity of the deformity.
The erection may be induced by injecting medicine into the penis or through self-stimulation. Some patients may eliminate the need to induce an erection in the doctor’s office by taking a digital or Polaroid picture at home. The examination may include an ultrasound scan of the penis.
Consequences of Peyronie’s disease
When the penis is bent or bumped, the lining to the shaft is damaged. Small blood vessels can rupture or burst and proper blood flow is interrupted.
Erectile dysfunction: Peyronie’s disease can also be associated with ED, the inability to achieve or sustain an erection firm enough for intercourse.
Other complications: As the lumps formed are benign or noncancerous, it is not life threatening. However, it can prevent sexual intercourse and the pain and impact on sex life, can lead to distress, anxiety and lower self-esteem.