Skip to main contentSkip to main content

Priapism (painful erections)

Priapism is a long-lasting painful erection. It can cause permanent damage to your penis if not treated quickly.

Priapism may get better on its own within 2 hours.

There are things you can try to reduce your erection.


  • try to go for a pee

  • have a warm bath or shower

  • drink lots of water

  • go for a gentle walk

  • try exercises, such as squats or running on the spot

  • take painkillers like paracetamol if you need to


  • do not apply ice packs or cold water to your penis – this can make things worse

  • do not have sex or masturbate – it will not make your erection go away

  • do not drink alcohol

  • do not smoke

Treatments to help reduce your erection include:

  • tablets or injections directly into your penis
  • using a needle to drain blood from your penis, done while the area is numbed under local anaesthetic
  • surgery to drain the blood through a tiny cut, done while you're asleep under general anaesthetic

Priapism most commonly affects people with sickle cell disease.

Less common causes include: