Peyronie's disease

Originally Published: January 31, 1997 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 18, 2014
Share this
Dear Alice,

I realize many men have a bent penis. Mine had been slightly bent most of my life, which didn't bother me. About a year and one half ago, however, it took a "turn for the worse." I suspected that I had Peyronies disease. After researching this problem, I went to my urologist. I was not too pleased with his solutions. First, he examined me "soft" and asked some questions. I have since learned that some urologists at least want to see a picture of the erect penis. He said I definitely have Peyronie's disease, but there wasn't much they could do about it. He told me to take vitamin E. He did say there is a doctor in the Chicago area that is doing extensive research on it. Have you heard of him or someone else doing research? I would like to do more about this problem. I have some discomfort in intercourse. I also don't like the looks of it, which I know affects my ability to get an erection. Even though I am 57, I want to continue to have an enjoyable sex life. Help!

Dear Reader,

You’re right; a bent or curved penis is not an uncommon occurrence. Whether to the left or right, up or down — every penis is unique. Other than natural variation among men, a bend in your “member” can be due to a variety of causes, including an autoimmune disorder, an inherited fibrous tissue abnormality, an injury, or Peyronie’s disease. So, as you experienced, if your curve takes a “turn for the worse” and becomes painful or impedes your normal sexual functioning, discussing your symptoms with your health care provider is a great move. You certainly deserve to enjoy your sex life well beyond your 57th year!

Peyronie’s disease is still somewhat of a mystery to many urologists and health care professionals. In contrast to a typical penile bend, those with the condition may have developed scar tissue in the sponge-like spaces of the penis, which expand with increased blood flow during erection. While many doctors suspect the root cause of Peyronie’s to be related to injury, not all who develop the condition report any kind of harm to their penis.

The symptoms of Peyronie’s disease may be noticed gradually or suddenly, and typically occur in two stages:

  1. Acute phase — symptoms can include pain, increasing curvature, shortening of the penis, erectile dysfunction, and the formation of plaques (a flat area of scar tissue) that can be felt through the skin.
  2. Chronic phase — curvature remains constant.

A typical exam to test someone for Peyronie’s disease will start with a physical evaluation of the non-erect penis for the location and amount of scar tissue. Some medical providers will also request a picture of the penis when erect. Your doctor may also measure the length of your penis to use as reference if your symptoms worsen and the curvature progresses. Follow up tests may include ultrasound and x-ray.

Historically, treatment for Peyronie’s has been fairly limited to surgical options (shortening the unaffected side of the penis, lengthening the effected side, or penile implants). There is still a great need for research on effective treatments, but the most recent reports suggest there are some possible options that are less invasive. These can include:

  • Oral and/or topical prescriptions
  • Iontophoresis — the use of electrical current to speed up the effectiveness of topical prescriptions.
  • Intralesional therapy — the injection of medication directly into curved or bent areas.
  • Radiotherapy — exposure to low dose radiation to reduce inflammation.
  • Shockwave therapy — the use of pulsing shocks to decrease scar tissue.
  • Penile traction — the use of rods and padded rings to lengthen and reduce curvature gradually.
  • Stem cell therapy — still currently being studied, and so far showing much promise.

Vitamin E is just one of many oral therapy options and is widely recommended for initial treatment of Peyronie’s disease due to its affordability and availability. However, results are mixed when it comes to how effective it is for treating Peyronie’s. It has been shown to be most effective when combined with other prescriptions.

If you’re not happy with your current treatment plan, you may want to seek a second opinion. Maintaining a healthy sex life does not need to be an afterthought as you decide on the treatment that is best for you. While talking with your health care provider may help you decide on prescription or surgical intervention, you may also want to consider talking with a counselor or sex therapist to address any stress or sexual concerns Peyronie’s disease causes in the bedroom. The Peyronie’s Society also discusses ways to navigate intimacy and sex from the patient’s perspective.

And lastly, the physician in Chicago your urologist was referring to could be Dr. Laurence Levine, who specializes in male sexual function and fertility. He’s a professor of Urology at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Levine has contributed a substantial amount of research to Peyronie’s disease and is considered a leader in the field of urology.

You may have a few more curves in the road ahead, dear Reader, but hopefully you continue to seek out information and options that support your health and sexual wellbeing.

Best of luck!

Alice