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Priapism and Sickle Cell Disease

Priapism and Sickle Cell DiseasePriapism – an erection lasting for several hours – is fairly common in men with sickle cell disease (SCD).

Sickle cell disease refers to a group of inherited blood disorders. The condition affects hemoglobin – a protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the rest of the body. People with SCD have an atypical type of hemoglobin that causes red blood cells to form in a crescent (sickle) shape. This can cause the cells to break down and lead to anemia.

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Experts estimate that about 40% of men with SCD develop priapism. (Click to tweet)

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To understand priapism, it helps to understand what happens when a man has an erection. Most of the time, when a man is sexually stimulated, his penis fills with blood, giving the penis the rigidity it needs for sex. Once he ejaculates, the blood is released back into the body.

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