How does Peyronie’s disease occur?

If you have Peyronie’s disease, you may wonder if you could have done something, or not done something, to prevent it. That’s likely not the case.

Doctors don’t know exactly why some men develop Peyronie’s disease and others do not. They do believe that it is a wound-healing disorder that prevents tissues in the penis from healing properly and that the disease is activated by injury to the penis. The injury can be a significant trauma or the accumulation of minor ones — like those that occur during normal sexual intercourse.

As the penis heals from the injury, excess scar tissue forms in the layer that surrounds the spongy erectile tissue. This layer, which is sometimes called the “jacket” or “tunic,” is normally made up of collagen, a protein found throughout the body. In Peyronie’s disease, the healing process overcompensates, causing too much collagen to build up and a plaque to form.

Illustration - Cross section

During an erection, the spongy erectile tissues fill up with blood and expand. The layer surrounding these tissues normally stretches, too. But, because the fibrous collagen in the plaque cannot stretch, the affected area doesn’t expand normally. This leads to curvature or other changes in the shape of the penis (also called penile deformity), which is one of the most common signs of Peyronie’s disease. (Learn about different types of penile deformities.)

Next page: Can Peyronie’s disease get worse?

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