It’s fairly common for an erect penis to curve slightly one way or another. But if the bend is extreme, causes pain, or makes intercourse impossible, then the condition is called Peyronie’s disease, after François Gigot de la Peyronie, the French surgeon who first described the disease in 1743.
With Peyronie’s, the penis typically curves sharply upward when erect, giving it a hook-like appearance, though curves in other directions are also seen. The immediate cause of the curvature is the development of small, hard, patches on the penis called plaques. These plaques don’t expand the same way that the rest of the penis does. When the penis is limp, you don’t notice. But when the penis “inflates” during an erection, the stiff plaques force the penis to bend. The plaques themselves are not harmful. But the penile bending they produce can cause anxiety for the man or make intercourse impossible.
The cause of Peyronie’s disease is not well understood, but there are several ways to treat it. One technique involves injecting compounds directly into the plaque to soften it or break it down. Another way to deliver a plaque-busting drug is to use a painless electrical charge to move the medicine through the skin and into the plaque. If all else fails, there are three surgical procedures for Peyronie’s disease. Each has pluses and minuses, though, as with any surgery, they all entail some degree of risk.
If you have Peyronie’s disease, see a urologist for a formal evaluation and to see what treatment might work best for you.