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Peyronie's Disease

Home | Peyronie's Disease

Introduction

Peyronie's Disease is an inflammatory, benign condition that may cause a curvature, deformity or shortening of the erect penis. This process is produced by scar formation in the fibrous covering of the erectile bodies of the penis. Men may or may not feel tenderness, a lump, or an area of scarring {plaque) in the shaft of the penis. Occasionally, this condition is also associated with pain, and, in some cases, erections and stress on the penis can exacerbate the pain. Many patients with Peyronie's disease suffer psychological trauma, may experience difficulty with sexual intercourse, and may also suffer from erectile dysfunction. Those who suffer from erectile dysfunction, however, may not notice these symptoms.

Peyronie's disease occurs more often in men between the ages of 50 and 70, although younger men are not immune. Its' accurate incidence is unknown, but it is not rare. Studies show that about three percent of men over the age of 40 have scar tissue in their penis labeled as Peyronie's disease. However, only a minority of these men have significant enough scarring, curvature, erectile dysfunction, or penile shortening to require medical attention.
 

History

A French surgeon, Francois de la Peyronie, first described Peyronie's disease in 1734. The problem was noted in print as early as 1687, in which it was classified as a form of erectile dysfunction. However, Peyonie's disease is associated with, rather than related to, erectile dysfunction, which is noted and not always present.
 

Symptoms

Deformity of the penis is the most frequent finding associated with Peyronie's disease. Often, it is very subtle and only noticed when an erection is provoked. Deformities range from a narrowing of the shaft like an hourglass to a 90-degree bend of the erect penis. In addition, narrowing of the penis may be present proximally towards the base or distally towards the glans. Some men experience decreased erections distal to the area of scarring, and there is a tendency for the penis to buckle under pressure during intercourse.
 

Cause

The cause of Peyronie's disease is unclear. In my practice, most patients who exhibit symptoms of Peyronie's disease have elevated serum cholesterol levels or diabetes. Therefore, I believe that Peyronie's disease is possibly due to obstruction of the small arteries that nurture the nerves of penile tissue or penile tissue itself. Many patients who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer, such as radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy, also develop Peyronie's disease. In these cases, the disease is most likely due to nerve bruising during surgery, or obstruction of penile blood vessels from surgical trauma or radiation therapy.

Use of vacuum constriction devices, penile injection, urologic instrumentation, and mountain biking may cause direct trauma to the penis and can lead to Peyronie's disease. Symptoms may also begin after an injury to the penis during sexual intercourse (penile fracture).

A rare form of Peyronie's Disease is also associated with DePuytren's contracture of the hand. Risk factors include Paget's disease of the bone, and rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, men who are related by blood tend to develop Peyronie's disease, which suggests that familial factors might make a man vulnerable to the disease.

For year’s urologist have speculated on the potential causes of Peyronie’s disease including infection, inflammation, and immune system disorders. None of these theories are plausible however. For men without any systemic vascular risk factors, vigorous sexual activity causing trauma to the erect penis is the most likely cause the formation of scar tissue.
 

Clinical Course/Natural History

Typically, an episode of Peyronie's disease is self-limiting, with the symptoms of pain resolving within 12-18 months. An acute or active phase during the first six months usually ends spontaneously. This phase involves pain of the flaccid penis, and pain with erection or intercourse. Curvature may be moderate, and the plaque or scar tissue may diminish or soften. After about eighteen months, no further deformity or scarring of the penis occurs, and usually the pain disappears. A plaque or hardening of the penis in a specific area may be noticed and is permanent. At this point, no further improvement of the condition will occur. This natural history of Peyronie's disease results in a stable, non-progressive deformity, which mayor may not need further treatment.

For patients following radical prostatectomy, a plaque or scar tissue is usually first noticed at 10 to 12 months following the operation. In addition shrinkage of the flaccid and stretched penis may continue to occur over the next 6 to 12 months after noticing the plaque. These changes are permanent.
 

Non-Surgical Treatment

Historically, medical experts have recommended waiting at least a year before attempting to correct Peyronie's disease surgically, as the plaque of the disease may shrink of disappear without treatment. Some researchers have given vitamin E to men with Peyronie's disease, usually orally in small-scale studies with some reported improvement.
However, no controlled studies have established the effectiveness of vitamin E therapy. Similar inconclusive success has been attributed to the oral application of para-aminobenzoate (PABA), a substance belonging to the family of B-complex molecules.

Researchers have also injected chemical agents such as collagenase, dimethyl sulfoxide, steroids, and calcium channel blockers directly into the plaque. None of these have produced convincing results. Steroids, such as cortisone, have produced unwanted side effects such as atrophy of healthy tissues. Most recently, collagenase, Verapamyl, and interferon injections have also proven to be unsuccessful.

Radiation therapy, in which high energy X-rays are aimed directly at the plaque, has also been used. Like some of the chemical treatments, radiation appears to reduce pain, yet it has no effect on the plaque itself and can cause some unwelcome side effects.

None of the treatments mentioned so far has equalled the body's natural ability to deal with Peyronie's disease. Therefore, the only medical treatment that I recommend for this condition includes anti-inflammatory drugs (Viox, Celebrex, Indocin, Motrim) to reduce pain or Cialis, Levitra or Viagra to improve erectile function if either symptoms are present.

Most experts agree that medical management is ineffective.
 

Surgical Treatment

Surgical intervention prior to eighteen months after the onset of the disease is not recommended, since progression and/or resolution may subsequently alter the results of the procedure. If the natural history of Peyronie's plaque has produced significant decrease in erectile function, surgery is required.

Peyronie's disease has been treated with some success by reconstructive surgery. The removal or pinching of tissue from the side of the penis opposite the plaque, which can cancel out the curvature, is known as the Nesbit procedure. This is the most successful reconstructive procedure for men who maintain excellent penile rigidity, do not suffer from erectile dysfunction, and are unable to have intercourse due to anatomical deformity. The procedure is not recommended for cosmetic purposes alone. This method also causes shortening of the erect penis.

The surgical methods that remove or expand the plaque, followed by placement of a patch of skin or artificial material, should in my opinion be avoided. This method may cause loss of erectile function, further penile shortening and a loss of penile sensation. Plaque excision and grafting causes a significant reduction in erectile rigidity in the majority of men and urologist who use this technique must inform patients of this risk as well as be prepared to diagnose, evaluate and treat the post-surgical erectile dysfunction. In addition patient must be warned that irreversible shortening of the penis will occur resulting in a smaller penis than that patient would have had if initially treated with a penile prosthesis.  

The best option for men who suffer from Peyronie's disease and erectile dysfunction is to receive an implanted device known as the Internal Penile Pump. This device increases the rigidity of the erect penis as well as improves the curvature without shortening of length. In very rare instances, Internal Penile Pump placement combined with a technique of incisions and grafting (or plication, which is pinching or folding the skin) is indicated if the penile pump alone does not straighten the penis.
 

The Bottom Line

In short, if the patient has a deformity (curvature) due to Peyronie's disease but has no erectile dysfunction (measured in terms of successful sexual intercourse), the best choice is to do nothing.

If the patient has both erectile dysfunction and deformity, then the Internal Penile Pump is the best treatment.



In men who have a deformity preventing intercourse, surgery to correct the angulation is performed only if the patient has normal penile Doppler study and unassisted erectile function. Correction of angulation is best reserved for the young patient with congenital curvature or curvature caused by traumatic injury of the penis.
 

Conclusion

Peyronie's disease is an uncommon condition, which is, in most cases, related to vascular disease or penile trauma. Symptoms, including penile curvature, shortening, and pain, should initially be treated conservatively with the expectation for improvement or resolution. The best option for men with erectile dysfunction or inadequate erections, and penile deformity due to Peyronie's disease, is placement of an Internal Penile Pump. More information about the Internal Penile Pump can be found on my website, www urologicalcare.com.