Complications of SCD: Priapism (Painful Erection of the Penis)

At a glance

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of inherited blood disorders associated with severe pain and complications that can affect the entire body. This page provides information on SCD and priapism (painful erection of the penis).

Exterior of an emergency department.


Sickled red blood cells in the penis can cause a persistent and often painful erection of the penis, known as priapism. Priapism can be considered major, with episodes lasting four hours or more, or stuttering, with recurrent episodes lasting a few minutes to up to three hours. Episodes lasting four hours or more are associated with a greater risk of permanent tissue damage so it’s important to seek medical care immediately.