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Peyronie's Disease

Peyronie's disease is a disorder affecting about three percent of men middle-age and older. The condition is caused by the formation of dense, fibrous scar tissue, or plaque, in the penis' tunica albuginea, the sheath that surrounds the erectile tissue.

The cause of Peyronie's disease is not completely known. However, factors such as genetics and trauma to the penis, which can occur due to injury or invasive penile procedures, may contribute to the disease.

Due to the formation of scar tissue in the penis, patients with Peyronie's disease may experience pain and a curvature or distortion, such as a shortening or narrowing of the penis, during an erection. In severe cases, these symptoms may lead to erectile dysfunction.

A diagnosis of Peyronie's disease usually can be made by taking a detailed medical history and conducting a thorough physical examination. Your doctor will check for and discuss any symptoms that are related to the disease. In some instances, an ultrasound scan may be used to identify the hardened plaque in the penis.

We recommend that patients bring photographs from a digital or polaroid camera of the erect penis taken from above and both sides, if possible. These can be very helpful in making a diagnosis.

In rare cases where a diagnosis of Peyronie's disease cannot be made through physical examination, a biopsy may be recommended. During a biopsy, a small amount of plaque cells are removed from the penis and then examined under a microscope to help diagnose the condition and rule out other diseases, such as cancer.

In about 15 percent of cases, Peyronie's disease spontaneously resolves itself without treatment. However, more than 40 percent of cases may worsen. If treatment is necessary, oral medications, injections and surgery may be used. Therapy for the condition aims to relieve symptoms and preserve erectile function.

  • Oral Medications — Taking a drug known as para-aminobenzoate or vitamin E tablets may be recommended for several months. Unfortunately, in most cases, these medications have limited success. At UCSF Medical Center, our experts pioneered new treatments, such as colchicine and pentoxifylline, that have better success.
  • Injections — The injection of verapamil into the plaque in the penis may be recommended. This treatment typically requires about six to 12 injections over six months duration.
  • Iontophoresis — This is a technique in which a painless current of electricity is used to deliver verapamil or some other agent under the skin into the plaque.

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