Why Call the Doctor if an Erection Lasts Longer Than 4 Hours?

An erection that doesn't return to a flaccid state is called priapism. It's a bummer and it's also something your doctor needs to know about, ASAP.

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Like an extra helping of pecan pie at Thanksgiving, the last hour at the pool or the latest installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise, we’ve all experienced too much of a good thing. After a gluttonous turn at the dessert table, you can sleep it off and emerge as good as new. But other scenarios require more aggressive intervention—like an erection that just won’t go away.

When you become stimulated (from a sexual thought or a well-timed breeze) your body sends blood into the penis and keeps it there until the party’s over, at which point the blood drains back into the rest of your body and all of your vital signs return to normal.

But it’s possible for too much blood to continue to enter the penis, or for the extra fluid to encounter difficulties upon exit, leading to a stubborn erection. You might call this “Definitely Eating Lunch At My Desk.” The medical establishment, however, calls it priapism, named for the Greek god Priapus, who was associated with fertility and was known for his ever-present erection. While the condition sounds like the start of one of Dionysus’ famous parties, it’s actually dangerous: The blood trapped in the penis will eventually run out of oxygen, leading to erectile dysfunction or disfigurement as the tissue in your penis starts to die.

Very few men experience erections of this magnitude. If you happen to be one of them, head straight to the doctor’s office. Because an extra mile on the treadmill can save you from the damage done by mom’s pie and ibuprofen and aloe can ease the pain of a sunburn. But the recovery from an hours-long hard-on requires professional intervention.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question—especially when it comes to your body, your health or your hygiene. Send us the things that you’ve always wondered about to blog@dollarshaveclub.com.