You know that pharmaceutical commercial that says call your doctor if an erection lasts for longer than 4 hours? Well, it’s 4 hours and not 4 days. According to Curtis Killman writing for Tulsa World and also the Washington Post, a $5 million civil right lawsuit alleges that a 32-year old former prison inmate in Oklahoma developed a painful erection that lasted 91 hours (or 5 hours short of 4 days), didn’t receive proper medical care in time despite pleading with the prison staff, and now has permanent injury.
It all apparently started for Dustin Lance on December 15, 2016, when, while at the Pittsburg County jail in Oklahoma, he swallowed an unidentified pill from another inmate. Of course, the words “swallowed” and “unidentified pill” should never go with each other, even if you are Neo in The Matrix. Allegedly, the next day he informed the prison staff that he was suffering “unbearable pain” because of a resulting continuous erection but received mocking rather than any medical treatment until December 19, when he was finally transported to McAlester Regional Hospital.
Based on the Tulsa World article, it is not yet clear what permanent injury Lance suffered as a consequence, and there seems to be some confusion about his current health status. Killman wrote: “County officials filed a motion Tuesday that seeks to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that the case is improperly being brought by a dead person” but “Jon Williford, an attorney who filed the lawsuit, said in an email to the Tulsa World that Lance had not died and attributed the reference to his client’s demise to a ‘scrivener’s error.’” That detail probably needs to be cleared up sometime soon.
While the unidentified pill has not, by definition, been identified, there are a number of drugs out there that can cause erections, some approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some not. FDA-approved drugs such as Cialis (tadalafil), Viagra (sildenafil), and Levitra (vardenafil) work by relaxing the muscles of the vessels that bring blood to the penis. Of course, each of these drugs come with a number of warnings and specific dosing instructions. The mechanisms, effectiveness, and safety of many alternative substances being touted as treatments for erectile dysfunction such as damiana and Horny Goat Weed (yes that is really the name) are still unclear. In general, do not even try a pill, drug, or supplement to help with erections without first consulting your doctor. You may not be able to stand the consequences and that is not a part of the body with which you want to experiment.
Priapism is the medical term for a prolonged erection not caused by sexual stimulation. Priapism is frequently but not always painful, depending on what’s causing it. The reason for the 4 hour cut off is that it is hard to think of situations where sexual arousal or stimulation could last more than 4 consecutive hours. However, if you have a painful erection, don’t just watch the clock and wait for it to reach 4 hours before doing anything. Any type of painful erection should raise immediate concern no matter how long it lasts. That’s because the primary mechanism for an erection is increased blood flow to the area. When an erection is painful that may be a sign of ischemic or low-flow priapism, meaning that the blood somehow cannot leave your penis. This is a medical emergency because when blood doesn’t flow in and out, you are essentially starving the cells of fresh oxygen, which can result in permanent damage. And we can leave it up to your imagination as to what damage in that region means.