Peyronie's Disease (cont.)

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How does Peyronie's disease develop?

Many researchers believe the plaque of Peyronie's disease develops following trauma, such as hitting or bending, that causes localized bleeding inside the penis. Two chambers known as the corpora cavernosa run the length of the penis. A connecting tissue, called a septum, runs between the two chambers and attaches at the top and bottom of the tunica albuginea.

If the penis is bumped or bent, an area where the septum attaches to the tunica albuginea may stretch beyond a limit, injuring the tunica albuginea and rupturing small blood vessels. As a result of aging, diminished elasticity near the point of attachment of the septum might increase the chances of injury. In addition, the septum can also be damaged and form tough, fibrous tissue, called fibrosis.

The tunica albuginea has many layers, and little blood flows through those layers. Therefore, the inflammation can be trapped between the layers for many months. During that time, the inflammatory cells may release substances that cause excessive fibrosis and reduce elasticity. This chronic process eventually forms a plaque with excessive amounts of scar tissue and causes calcification, loss of elasticity in spots, and penile deformity.

While trauma might explain some cases of Peyronie's disease, it does not explain why most cases develop slowly and with no apparent traumatic event. It also does not explain why some cases resolve or why similar conditions such as Dupuytren's contracture do not seem to result from severe trauma.

Some researchers theorize that Peyronie's disease may be an autoimmune disorder.

How is Peyronie's disease evaluated?

Doctors can usually diagnose Peyronie's disease based on a physical examination. The plaque can be felt when the penis is limp. Full evaluation, however, may require examination during erection to determine the severity of the deformity. The erection may be induced by injecting medicine into the penis or through self-stimulation. Some patients may eliminate the need to induce an erection in the doctor's office by taking a digital or Polaroid picture at home. The examination may include an ultrasound scan of the penis to pinpoint the location(s) and calcification of the plaque. The ultrasound can also be used to evaluate blood flow into and out of the penis if there is a concern about erectile dysfunction.


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