What is Peyronie disease?

Peyronie disease causes hard, flat plaque to form under the skin on the tissue of the penis. The plaque often starts as an inflammation that may turn into scar tissue. It can cause pain and a sharp curve in the penis during erections.  

What causes Peyronie disease?

Some researchers believe Peyronie disease develops after an injury that causes bleeding inside the penis. This could explain cases of Peyronie that develop quickly, but it does not explain why most cases develop slowly or what causes the disease after no clear injury.

Most researchers believe that genetics or the environment may play a role. Men with certain connective tissue disorders and men who have a close family member with Peyronie disease are at greater risk. Certain health conditions such as diabetes or tobacco use may also contribute to its development. 

If the disease heals in a year or so, the plaque often does not get worse. But, when the disease lasts for years, the plaque often becomes a tough, fibrous tissue, and calcium deposits may form. The plaque in Peyronie disease is not cancer.

What are the symptoms of Peyronie disease?

The following are the most common symptoms of Peyronie disease:

  • Changes in the way an erection looks:

    • Plaque on the top of the shaft causes the penis to bend upward when erect. This is the most common condition.

    • Plaque on the side causes the penis to bend to the side of the plaque. 

    • Plaque on the underside causes the penis to bend downward during erection.

    • Plaque on both the top and bottom, or that wraps around the penis, can cause deformity, indentation, and shortening of the penis.

  • Painful erections

  • Trouble with sexual penetration

Pain, bending and emotional distress can greatly affect the man’s sex life. The symptoms of Peyronie disease may look like other conditions or health problems. Always talk with a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is Peyronie disease diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will review your health and sexual history. The provider will also do a physical exam, during which the plaque can often be felt. Other tests may include:

  • Ultrasound of the penis. This imaging method uses high-frequency sound waves to create pictures of the inside of the penis and check blood flow.

To check how the penis looks during an erection, your provider may inject medicine into the penis to cause an erection in the clinic.

How is Peyronie disease treated?

The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and keep you sexually active. There is no cure. Education about the disease and its usual course is often included in the treatment plan. In some cases, treatment is not needed. Peyronie disease often happens in a mild form that heals on its own in 6 to 15 months. Treatment may include:

  • Vitamin E. Small studies have reported improvements with vitamin E taken by mouth (oral). But, larger studies have not been done to prove that this treatment works. Still, this is an easy, low cost treatment choice.

  • Medicines. Many oral medicines have been tried, but none is proven to work in all men. If your healthcare provider wants to try medicine, be sure you understand what it is and what’s known about it. Also know what side effects you should watch for.

  • Shots (injections) of medicines into the plaques. Injections of various medicines into the plaques have been tried in a small number of men.

  • Surgery. This may be used to correct the plaque in severe cases. This includes when the man has pain during an erection. Or when he can’t keep an erection long enough to have sex. In severe cases, you may need a penile implant to straighten the penis.

Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions or concerns you may have about this condition.

Living with Peyronie disease

Peyronie disease affects each man differently. It can be very frustrating and affect your self-confidence in sexual relationships. It is not uncommon for men with Peyronie disease to have depression or relationship problems. You and your partner should learn as much as you can about the disease.