Thursday, November 1, 2007

Too Much of A Good Thing

One sentence in the ads for erectile dysfunction prescription medications never fails to get a laugh. If you have an erection lasting more than four hours seek immediate medical help, the warning goes, more or less.

Predictably, men watching this often snicker and say "If I had an erection for four hours I would..." Fill in the lubricious blank. Well, what would you do? It's not as if many middle-aged men have dozens of eager partners waiting to service them.

At any rate, the caution seems silly. What harm could there be in a 240-minute erection?

To understand the problem, consider what causes an erection. Blood rushes in and one-way valves keep it from leaving until the blood is no longer needed.

An erection that won't end is called "priapism," after the king of Troy, Priam, who legend says fathered 50 offspring.

Priapism is usually painful, and usually affects males between 5 to 10 and 20 to 50 years. If not treated promptly, priapism can cause scarring and permanent erectile dysfunction.

Yes, that's right. Permanent.

Priapism cen be caused by sickle cell disease, leukemia, black widow spider bites, carbon monoxide poisoning, and of course, certain medications. The condition is treated with ice packs, injections, and shunts to let the blood drain.

That doesn't seem like a barrel of laughs.

Priapism is one kind of ED you definitely don't want.

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