What is Peyronie’s Disease?

Peyronie’s disease is where plaques (segments of flat scar tissue) form under the skin of the penis. These plaques can cause the penis to bend or become indented during erections. The plaques can often be felt through the skin and can be painful.

Peyronie’s disease is thought to happen in about 4 out of 100 men between the ages of 40 and 70. It is rare in young men but has been seen in men in their 30s. The number of cases may be higher than the estimates because many men may be embarrassed and choose not to see their health care provider.

Causes of Peyronie’s Disease

Peyronie’s disease is likely caused by minor injury to the penis. This type of damage is most often caused by vigorous sex such as bending the penis during penetration or pressure from a partner’s pubic bone, though it can also be caused by sports or other accidents. Injury to the tunica albuginea may result in scar tissue forming in the cells (fibrosis). This scar tissue then forms the plaque of Peyronie’s disease. Peyronie’s disease is the result of a problem in the way the body heals wounds.

However, not all men who suffer mild trauma to the penis get Peyronie’s disease. For this reason, most researchers believe there must be genetic or environmental reasons Peyronie’s disease plaques form. Men with certain connective tissue disorders and men who have a close family member with Peyronie’s disease have a greater risk of getting it. Certain health issues, such as high blood sugar, tobacco use, or past pelvic trauma, may also lead to wound healing problems and may help cause Peyronie’s disease.

Symptoms of Peyronie’s Disease

Symptoms may develop slowly or appear overnight. When the penis is soft, you can’t see a problem. But in severe cases, the hardened plaque hampers flexibility, causing pain and forcing the penis to bend or arc when erect.

In most cases, the pain eases over time, but the bend in the penis can worsen.

Some men with the condition develop scar tissue elsewhere in the body, such as on the hand or foot. Men with Dupuytren’s contractures — scarring in the hand that affects fingers — seem to be more likely to get Peyronie’s.

Treatment for Peyronie’s Disease

Stem cell therapy has proven effective in the treatment of Peyronie’s disease. Injections of stem cells into the penis are used to enhance the erection and improve the elasticity of connective tissue. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that are capable of self-renewal and differentiation, promoting the repair of tissues via their immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory action. Adipose-derived stem cells (ADSC) are used most widely due to their abundant tissue source and ease of isolation. Multiple studies have indicated the efficacy of stem cell therapy as a potential treatment for fibrotic diseases. Clearly, ADSCs may represent a way to treat and prevent PD in both rat and human models.