What is Peyronie’s disease?
Peyronie’s disease is a disorder unique to men that affects the tissue in the penis. A buildup of scar tissue forms in a layer around the erectile tissue of the penis, which can then cause it to curve and shorten. In some cases the bend can be so pronounced that it prevents penetrative sex. It was first described in 1743 in a book on ejaculation dysfunction by François Gigot de la Peyronie, physician in the court of King Louis XV,1 who compared the feel of the nodules to the beads of a rosary. The translation of La Peyronie is ‘little stone’ and it originates from the fact that François’ father, also a surgeon, specialised as a stone cutter surgeon removing stones from the bladder.1
Since Dr de la Peyronie’s discovery in 1743 similar conditions that result from collagen buildups in parts of the body have been recorded. Around 25% of patients with Peyronie’s disease also suffer from Dupuytren’s Contracture, a condition where a buildup of collagen in the palm of the hand causes the fingers to bend into the palm, or Ledderhose disease where collagen builds up in the sole of the foot.2
Who is commonly diagnosed with the condition?
The condition is most commonly diagnosed in men between the ages of 41 and 60 although it can occur in men younger and older. It affects around 1 in 20 men in the UK. Some people estimate it could be much higher than this because many men are embarrassed to visit their doctor,3 and official figures often don’t account for these cases. Our recent survey of 185 men found 20% felt they would be laughed at if they spoke publicly about their condition, with the result that 1 in 10 men have not told anyone about their condition, not even a doctor.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Although Peyronie’s was first recorded nearly 275 years ago, its causes are still not clearly understood. Researchers believe that Peyronie’s can be caused by injury to the penis, such as bending during sex. Genetic factors, diabetes, high blood pressure, heavy smoking and heavy drinking have also been linked to the condition.
The scar tissue development can lead to a range of possible symptoms over an initial period of 12-18 months. The first stage of Peyronie’s is the active stage and this is where the most change to the penis occurs including; a hard lump of collagen in the shaft, a curve or hour glass indentation when erect, pain, and/or a shortening of the penis. After the first stage the disease usually stops progressing.
Is Peyronie’s painful?
Pain is present during the first stage of the disease when the plaque is forming, but will disappear when the disease reaches the stable phase. The pain is not associated with the how severe the condition is. You can have a 60 degree curvature of the penis but no pain because the condition has reached the stable phase.
Can you have Peyronie’s and still have sex?
The curvature of the penis that can result from Peyronie’s varies from slight to severe. The curve is caused by the scar tissue plaque that forms on the shaft, which hardens and reduces flexibility. The plaque can cause the penis to bend downwards, upwards, to either side, and become hour glass shaped. Having penetrative sex is extremely difficult if the penis is bent more than 30 degrees and many men with Peyronie’s find sex uncomfortable or even impossible.
The British Dupuytren’s Society Survey
Our survey found that many men with Peyronie’s choose to keep the condition private. Its findings made it very clear how much Peyronie’s is a condition that has consequences far beyond the obvious physical symptoms. Of 185 men surveyed:
- 60% have suffered depression since their diagnosis
- A quarter say it has negatively affected their relationship
- 1 in 10 have a relationship that has broken down completely
- A quarter (24%) are no longer sexually active
What can I do about the condition?
This is a condition that leaves many men depressed and feeling alone. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. In 5-15% of cases the condition can resolve by itself.4 For those that don’t there are non-surgical and surgical treatment options available. Anyone who thinks they or their partner might have the condition should go and visit their GP.
Where can I find out more about the condition?
The British Dupuytren’s Society represents a number of collagen-related conditions including Dupuytren’s disease, Peyronie’s disease, Ledderhose disease and frozen shoulder. This year we are running a national awareness campaign #StandUpforPeyronies. We’re also fundraising to provide support for men with Peyronie’s disease. For more information visit www.dupuytrens-society.org.uk, follow britdupsoc on Facebook, or use the hashtag #StandUpforPeyronies. You can donate at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/standupforpeyronies.
2Dominique Fausto de Souza, MD, Lilian Micaelo, MD, Tullia Cuzzi, MD, PhD et al, Ledderhose Disease an unusual presentation, J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010 Sep; 3(9): 45–47.