Please Stop Believing These Peyronie's Disease Inaccuracies
When we hear the word "disease," it rarely brings to mind anything positive. Peyronie's disease is no different, except that it isn't really a disease in the way we normally think of them.
Peyronie's disease isn't an illness. It has nothing to do with bacteria or viruses. It is a noncancerous condition that results from scar tissue developing in the penis, leading to curved and often painful erections.
The condition was first observed in 1561, but not until 1743 was it fully described and given its name by Francois Gigot de la Peyronie, a French surgeon. Despite its long medical history, however, Peyronie's disease inaccuracies persist, and the subject doesn't feature prominently in daily conversation.
Naturally, with discussion around Peyronie's disease being scarce, a few prevalent misconceptions about the condition need to be cleared up.
Surgery is the only treatment for Peyronie's disease
Surgery is absolutely an effective treatment option for Peyronie's disease.
"An easy, straightforward surgery called a penile plication can be performed as an outpatient surgery and improve curvature to less than 10 degrees, nearly straight, in a matter of 30 to 45 minutes in the operating room," said reconstructive urologist Paul Chung, M.D., who has offices in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
Several other surgeries, including grafting and penile implants, are used to treat Peyronie's disease as well, although guys with a bent penis can also pursue nonsurgical ways to treat Peyronie's.
In fact, the modalities of Peyronie's disease treatments that have been tried over hundreds of years have been too numerous to count, according to Gregory Bernstein, M.D., of Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group. While we don't need to cover every tried-and-failed method from the past 500 years, there are a few that actually made the cut and can help men today.
One recent innovation for Peyronie's disease treatment is Xiaflex, or collagenase clostridium histolyticum, an FDA-approved prescription medication injection that breaks down Peyronie's plaque.
The Food and Drug Administration has also approved several traction devices and oral medications for use in the treatment of the disease.
Chung did say, though, that surgery may often be the best option for patients with severe curvature, complex deformities or concomitant erectile dysfunction (ED).
Keep in mind, too, that surgery for Peyronie's disease can be performed in less than an hour, whereas some nonsurgical treatments may take months to show results.
Peyronie's disease is always the result of one serious injury
Scar tissue forms when normal tissue is destroyed or injured, so it's logical to assume that scar tissue in the penis would form as the result of one wildly traumatic injury—for instance, wrecking your bicycle or incorrectly performing a risky sex move—but more often than not, this isn't the case.
"Peyronie's disease likely comes from microtrauma," Chung said.
Microtrauma is a broad term to describe a wide array of small injuries to the body. This doesn't necessarily mean guys are walking through thorn bushes in the buff, though. Microtrauma can occur as a result of more common activities, such as aggressive sexual activity, penetrating with a weak erection or using too little lubrication.
"Microtrauma leads to repetitive injury along the shaft of the penis, and the body then does what it's supposed to do and repairs that injury," said Bernstein, who is based in Alexandria, Virginia. "Over time, the repetitive injury [and] repetitive repair leads to scar tissue that forms. As scar tissue becomes harder and more solid, it calcifies over time. That's what leads to this plaque deposition along the shaft of the penis."
The penis, unlike most other organs, constantly expands and contracts. Scar tissue is far less pliable than most other bodily tissue, so it doesn't expand nearly as much as penile tissue. When the penis becomes erect and expands, the scar tissue creates tension that bends the penis into a curved shape.
Most men don't notice any microtrauma or scar tissue forming, either, which is why Peyronie's disease can be such an alarming condition at first. If you sustained a traumatic injury to your penis resulting in a curve after it healed, you might not be surprised, but a painful, curved erection seemingly out of nowhere? That's bound to be quite a shock.
Once you have Peyronie's disease, you have it for life
Peyronie's disease rarely ever goes away on its own, but the wide array of treatment options and the efficacy of surgeries mean you're not necessarily going to have painful erections for the rest of your life.
In fact, some men with Peyronie's disease might not need treatment at all. The severity of the curve determines whether or not you need treatment, but if the curve is slight enough that it isn't affecting your sex life, then there really isn't any reason to treat it.
"Really, what I think drives therapy and treatment, and the reason to undergo treatment, is to help improve functionality," Bernstein said. "That's the goal of therapy."
Again, the cause of Peyronie's disease is the body's natural healing process, repairing microtrauma-damaged tissue and forming scar tissue in its place. Technically, the body is doing its job properly. Ultimately, treatment for Peyronie's disease is a quality-of-life concern, not a major health concern.
Some of the Peyronie's disease inaccuracies make it sound like a worst-case scenario. And yes, we still have a lot to learn about the condition. But the versatility of available treatment options means you can still enjoy your sex life after diagnosis.