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Sexual dysfunction is something most men associate with erectile dysfunction (ED) — the inability to get or maintain an erection. But ED isn’t the only pelvic health condition that can affect your ability to maintain an erect penis.
Sexual medicine doesn’t widely recognize hard flaccid syndrome (HFS), a condition characterized by a semi-rigid penis in the flaccid state and numerous other symptoms including pain, urinary symptoms and psychological distress. But individuals reporting these issues certainly do, and many of them go through repeated urology visits — and probably a lot of Google searching — in an attempt to get answers.
The state of current knowledge on this condition isn’t all that impressive, but below we’ve shared what little information we could find about the symptoms, potential causes and treatment theories for dealing with hard flaccid syndrome. If it’s a sexual health issue you believe you might be dealing with, here’s what you need to know.
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Hard flaccid syndrome, also called simply hard flaccid, is a condition in which the semi-rigid penis never fully relaxes but also may have difficulty hardening all the way.
Hard flaccid is considered a type of chronic pelvic pain syndrome. It varies in severity, but when a guy is sexually aroused, hard flaccid can prevent their penis from functioning as expected. Moreover, it can cause a bunch of other symptoms, including numbness or penile pain.
Although hard flaccid syndrome hasn’t been recognized as an official medical condition by healthcare professionals, thousands of men have reported their symptoms and experiences in men’s health forums and to healthcare providers, prompting more research into causes and treatments.
Hard flaccid isn’t exactly a type of ED, but it can result in erectile dysfunction. This is because, when you have hard flaccid syndrome, your pelvic floor muscles may be constantly tensed, which could limits blood flow and nerve signals to the penis. There could also be structural damage or malformations that impact blood flow and nerve signaling. Blood flow is a necessary part of developing and maintaining normal erections.
This condition most commonly affects men in their 20s and 30s.
We’ve already stated the obvious primary symptom, but over time, hard flaccid can cause other problems, such as a lack of interest in sex and emotional distress.
Commonly reported hard flaccid symptoms include:
A “hollow” feeling in the penis
Difficulty getting an erection, including morning erections
Pain in the glans, shaft or base of the penis
Perineal pain due to tight pelvic floor muscles
Pain or trouble urinating, or lower volume stream of urine
The cause of hard flaccid syndrome are unclear right now, but like other chronic pelvic pain syndromes, many different factors could be at play.
Some factors thought to contribute to hard flaccid syndrome include injury to the penis during sex or vigorous masturbation. And the initial symptoms may cause distress and sympathetic stimulation, which can lead to worsening symptoms
Many men self-diagnose hard flaccid by reading online forums and, until recently, those who did visit a doctor were often misdiagnosed.
Hard flaccid syndrome is, fortunately, gaining more attention from researchers and healthcare professionals who deal with male sexual dysfunctions.
If you’re looking for a diagnosis, your healthcare provider may ask to run some medical tests, such as blood tests, an imaging test (or Doppler ultrasound) of the penis, urine test and sexually transmitted infection screening.
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Although hard flaccid syndrome treatment doesn’t have a standard protocol, researchers believe a combination of treatments can help. Treatment may include medications for pain management, pelvic floor physical therapy, stress reduction techniques and/or counseling.
Specifically, your healthcare provider may suggest:
Pelvic floor physical therapy
At-home pelvic floor exercises
Psychological treatment in the form of therapy
Hard flaccid syndrome can make it difficult to get or keep an erection during sexual intercourse.
If you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction as a symptom of hard flaccid, there are currently several FDA-approved oral ED medications on the market, such as Viagra® (sildenafil), Cialis® (tadalafil) and Stendra® (avanafil ). These medications, which are in a class of drugs called PDE5 inhibitors, may be able to help you get and sustain an erection by increasing blood flow to your penis.
Finding yourself in a permanent flaccid state is not what any man wants, so if your erectile function seems off, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional about it ASAP. Your sexual quality of life is important — whether medical science has caught up with your symptoms or not, getting help is crucial early on.
In the meantime, here’s what you should know, no Reddit forums required:
Hard flaccid syndrome is a condition in which men can be stuck in a semi-erect state, potentially making it difficult to get to a full erection and being unable to return to a fully flaccid penis.
Various potential causes are linked to hard flaccid — a traumatic event or injury to the penis, perineum or pudendal nerves could be responsible.
Hard flaccid may produce chronic pain, sensory changes in your sensitivity and other secondary side effects.
Treatment options include physiotherapy, medication and mental health support, but they all begin with a conversation with a healthcare professional.
Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!
Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years in digital health focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show and Sharecare and has served on the Medical Expert Board of Eat This, Not That!.
Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.
Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs.
In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information
Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.
Bachelor of Arts, Egyptian and Ancient Western Asian Archaeology. Brown University |
Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist. Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs
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