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Peyronie's disease causes the penis to bend when it's erect. Although this condition isn't life-threatening, it can be alarming and uncomfortable. The effects and the possible treatments.
What is Peyronie's disease?
Peyronie's disease is when a fibrous plaque develops within the shaft of the penis. This plaque will feel like a small hard lump underneath the skin.

When erect, the penis bends and looks angular. In some men the bending is so marked that it makes sexual intercourse impossible.

The exact cause of Peyronie's disease is unknown. It's not a sign of an underlying serious condition and it's not a sexually transmitted infection. It's currently thought that some men may have a genetic disposition to the condition.

Any man can develop Peyronie's disease. The average age is 50 for it to develop but it can happen in men as young as 18. About 80,000 men in the UK have the condition.

How to tell if you have it
The three main symptoms of Peyronie's disease are:
* a hard lump (fibrous plaque) within the shaft of the penis
* pain with erections
* bending of the penis when erect

The fibrous plaque causes pain, which can in turn lead to impotence. The penis may bend to the left or to the right, although in most cases it bends upwards. You may not notice the bend immediately as it tends to develop over one to three months. It will usually only be noticeable once the penis is erect.

What to do if you think you have it
As soon as you feel any pain or abnormal lumps in your penis, go to your doctor. If Peyronie's disease is diagnosed, ask about the treatment options available. If your doctor can't answer your questions, ask for a referral to a consultant with a special interest in male sexual health problems or to a special clinic.

Sometimes the disease will clear up by itself but this may take several years.

Don't worry
Remember: Peyronie's disease is not linked to infections or cancer. The main aim is to treat the condition and correct the deformity - which may take a while.

Not all men with Peyronie's disease require treatment, but the following may help:

* In its early stages a tablet called Tamoxifen has been shown to prevent the formation of the fibrous plaque. This tablet is also used in the treatment of breast cancer, but the two conditions are not related.
* Vitamin E is sometimes effective in easing the pain and deformity of the disease.
* Verapamil, often used in the treatment of high blood pressure, has been shown to decrease the size of the plaque and decrease the pain when injected directly into the plaque.
* Extracorporeal shock wave therapy, or ESWT, a new treatment, is being used in some hospitals. This is a new treatment and although initial results have been promising, the long-term outcome is yet to be determined.
* Surgery is only considered if you've had Peyronie's disease for a year or more and it hasn't progressed for at least three months. There are two types of operation. The Nesbitt procedure removes tissue opposite to the curve to straighten the penis. The other procedure involves putting a graft or part of a vein within the fibrous plaque to lengthen the area. In some cases the surgical insertion of a penile prosthesis (implant) is recommended.

It will also help as well if you talk to your partner. Support and understanding removes a lot of the worry and pressure.