Peyronie's disease is identified by a plaque that forms on the penis, which can cause reduced flexibility and pain. Although the disease occurs mostly in middle-aged men, men of any age can develop it. The goal of treatment is to keep the person sexually active. Surgery is only recommended in long-term cases.
Characterized by a plaque that forms on the penis, Peyronie's disease causes pain and reduced flexibility, making sexual intercourse difficult. The plaque develops on the upper or lower side of the penis in the layers containing erectile tissue. It begins as a localized inflammation and can develop into a hardened scar.
At this point in time, the exact cause of Peyronie's disease is unknown. However, many researchers believe that the plaque associated with the condition develops following trauma (hitting or bending) that causes localized bleeding inside the penis.
Cases of Peyronie's disease range from mild to severe. Symptoms may develop slowly or appear overnight. In severe cases of Peyronie's disease, the hardened plaque reduces flexibility, causing pain and forcing the penis to bend or arc during erection. In many cases, the pain decreases over time, but the bend in the penis may remain a problem, making sexual intercourse difficult. The sexual problems that result from Peyronie's disease can disrupt a couple's physical and emotional relationship, and lead to lowered self-esteem in the man. In a small percentage of people with a milder form of the disease, the inflammation may resolve without causing significant pain or permanent bending.
The plaque itself is benign (noncancerous). A plaque on the top of the shaft (which is the most common) causes the penis to bend upward. A plaque on the underside causes it to bend downward. In some cases, the plaque develops on both the top and bottom, leading to indentation and shortening of the penis. At times, pain, bending, and emotional distress make sexual intercourse difficult or impossible.