Sickle cell disease Priapism (1570)

Key points below

What is Priapism?

Priapism is a long and often painful erection of the penis. This is not a normal erection. Priapism happens when the red blood cells sickle and stick together in the penis. The blood is trapped and doesn’t flow back out.

What are the symptoms?

There are 3 types of priapism. The symptoms for each type include:

1. Prolonged.  This is a painful erection that lasts more than 30 minutes.

2. Stuttering.  This is a painful erection that may come and go over several hours.

An erection that is painful and goes on for 30 minutes needs to be treated.  Go to the emergency room.

3. Persistent.  This is an erection that may last a long time.  Normally there is no pain with this type. If there is a long-lasting erection, but there is no pain call the Sickle Cell clinic.  They can help you figure out what to do.


Call the doctor, nurse, or the Sickle Cell clinic if you have any concerns or if there are special health care needs not covered by this information.

  • Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM:  Call the Sickle Cell clinic: (414) 266-2420, . Ask to talk with a nurse.  
  • After hours, weekends or holidays: Call (414) 266-2420. You will be transferred to the operator if it is an emergency.  Ask for the hematologist on call to be paged.