One in ten Australian men suffer from a disease that causes their penises to curve, according to new research.
Peyronie's disease (PD) is a chronic inflammatory condition which presents as a curved penis and affects up to 13 per cent of the male population, news.com.au reports.
The disease develops when the penis tries to heal itself after being damaged — which can occur while erect or flaccid — and scar tissue develops in an unusual way, causing a deformity.
A new study of around 1300 Australian men was conducted by Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand and will be presented at their annual scientific meeting in Melbourne this weekend.
The study found one in six men with the condition experience pain or discomfort when they have an erection, more than a quarter are bothered by the appearance of their erect penis and one in five are bothered when they have sexual intercourse and report difficulty in having intercourse.
The study's lead author, urologist Professor Eric Chung, said many men with a curved penis suffered severe physical and mental distress, particularly in romantic relationships.
"Having a curved erection can make it difficult to have penetrative sex, it can cause pain to the man or their partner. Plus it can affect blood flow so it may cause erectile dysfunction," Prof Chung told news.com.au.
"This is a very taboo subject. You're not going to see many people sharing that they have a penile curvature," he said.
Professor Chung said the majority of sufferers have a 30 to 60 degree curve in their penis.
"Some patients don't just get a curve, they get indentations. So one side will appear collapsed compared to the other side," he said.
The psychological impacts of the condition can be devastating.
"Some men find it really depressing," Prof Chung said.
"I do have guys who see me saying 'My marriage broke down because of my penile curvature' or 'I'm not able to have sex with my wife or have children, because the curvature is causing me pain or 'I'm causing my partner pain'. It's a condition that has a lot of implications. Lots of men with it aren't able to conceive in the normal way."
The issue is exacerbated by a lack of awareness about PD, including among GPs.
"This is a sexual condition that remains a very taboo and private thing. A lot of patients find it difficult to speak to someone and many GPs don't have any understanding about the condition," Prof Chung said
"A lot of men get really frustrated and end up coming back from the consultation depressed, thinking nothing can be done."
Professor Chung will present the findings of the study at the International Society of Sexual Medicine conference in Lisbon next week.