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What should I do if my erection will not go down?

If you've had an erection for more than 4 hours, go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.

If it's been less than 4 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 having a pee. Having had a warm bath may make it easier for you to pee
  • use paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve the discomfort

However, if these steps do not help and you've had an erection for more than 4 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 will not 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 cause severe pain.

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 medicines, such as those for erectile dysfunction (impotence).

It can also be caused by conditions that affect the blood, such as sickle cell disease 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 medicine 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: 18 November 2019
Next review due: 18 November 2022