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What should I do if my erection won’t go down?

If you've had an erection for more than four hours, go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.

If it's been less than four hours, the following tips may help:

  • Gentle exercise, such as jogging or using an exercise bike, may help your erection go down.
  • Having a warm bath may also benefit, as can passing urine, which may be easier in a warm bath.
  • Use painkillers to relieve the discomfort.

However, if these steps do not help and you've had an erection for more than four hours, go to A&E, as this is an emergency.

Why won’t my erection go down?

The medical name for having an erection that won't go down is priapism. It happens when the blood that fills the penis to make it erect gets trapped and cannot flow back out again. Priapism can be extremely painful.

A prolonged erection can damage the penis and could cause permanent problems in getting an erection. Therefore, it’s important that priapism is treated quickly.

What causes priapism?

The cause of priapism is often unknown. It can be due to nerve damage or a side effect of some types of medication, such as those for erectile dysfunction (impotence).

It can also be caused by conditions that affect the blood, such as sickle cell anaemia or leukaemia, or by an injury to the penis or genital area.

Alcohol and some illegal drugs can also cause priapism.

Will I need treatment?

Treatment for priapism may involve taking medication or draining blood from the penis.

If the priapism is caused by an underlying condition, this will need to be treated. Surgery may be necessary to prevent permanent damage.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 27/11/2016

Next review due: 27/11/2019