Sexual Health Q&A

How might Peyronie’s disease cause erectile dysfunction?

When a man has Peyronie’s disease, areas of hardened scar tissue called plaques form on his penis. These plaques make the penis less flexible and cause it to bend. If the curve is especially severe, the man may not be able to have intercourse at all.

Some men with Peyronie’s disease also develop erectile dysfunction (ED). To understand this better, it helps to have some background on how an erection occurs.

When a man has an erection, his penis becomes engorged with blood. This is what gives the erection its firmness. Smooth muscle tissue in the penis relaxes and penile arteries widen, allowing blood to flow in. Once enough blood has entered the penis, veins constrict to keep the blood in place. After he ejaculates, the veins open again and the blood flows back into the body.

Scientists aren’t sure exactly some men with Peyronie’s disease also have ED, but the following factors might be involved:

• The plaques may weaken the smooth muscle tissue in the penis, making it more difficult for an erection to occur.

• The plaques may impair blood flow into the penis. As a result, there isn’t enough blood for a firm erection.

• The plaques may cause blood to leave the penis too quickly, making the man lose the erection.

• Men with Peyronie’s disease often feel depressed about their situation and anxious about sexual activity. These psychological issues can lead to erection problems.

If a man has ED along with Peyronie’s disease, he should talk to his doctor. The two conditions can be managed and a doctor can help determine what course of treatment is most appropriate.