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Signs of erectile tissue damage and what to do about it

raagini yedidigina-allegretti

Reviewed by Raagini Yedidi, MD, written by Gina Allegretti, MD

Last updated: May 06, 2022
6 min read


If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Your mind is usually on auto-pilot when you’re having sex, swept up in emotions, excitement, and arousal. You’re probably not thinking about injuries or wondering whether you’re going to break your penis. But surprisingly, sexual activity is actually one of the most common causes of erectile tissue damage. Read on to find out more. 


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What are key signs of erectile tissue damage? 

Erectile tissue damage usually shows up during or shortly after sexual activity. Key signs and symptoms of erectile tissue damage include (Bhoil, 2015; Amit, 2013): 

  • Pain 
  • Sudden loss of erection 
  • Popping, snapping, or cracking sound during intercourse
  • Penile swelling
  • Bruising of the penis and surrounding area
  • Bleeding from the penis
  • Rolling sign, which is a lump or blood clot (hematoma) in the penile shaft over which the penis skin can be rolled (Krishna-Reddy, 2014)
  • Eggplant sign (eggplant deformity or aubergine sign), which is a swollen, purple penis that resembles the shape of an eggplant (Atreya, 2021)

Erectile tissue consists of several parts: 

  • Two columns of spongy tissue called the corpora cavernosa that help increase blood flow to the penis
  • A smaller bundle of spongy tissue called the corpus spongiosum
  • A membrane called the tunica albuginea that surrounds the other parts

Injury to any part of the erectile tissue is a medical emergency, so it’s important to recognize the signs early. Treating the condition quickly may help avoid long-lasting effects. 

Can you break your penis? 

When you think of breaking a body part, you probably picture a broken bone in an arm or a leg. But even though there are no bones in it, you can actually “break” your penis and damage the erectile tissue. 

A broken penis, or penile fracture, happens when erectile tissue ruptures due to trauma or injury. The trauma occurs most commonly during sexual intercourse when an erect penis is bent forcefully or aggressively against resistance (Boncher, 2010). In some instances, it may even happen during forceful masturbation. It’s not a common injury, but it’s important to recognize it to avoid permanent erectile tissue damage (Diaz, 2021). 

Bruising of the penis or penis pain 

Bruising and pain in the penis may be signs of penile fracture and erectile tissue damage, but there are other possible causes of these symptoms, including (Krishna-Reddy, 2014; Leslie, 2022-a): 

  • Zipper injuries: Pain, swelling, and bruising of the skin of the penis can happen after it’s been caught in the teeth of a zipper.
  • Penis ring injuries: Penis rings (aka cock rings) help keep the penis engorged and erect during sex. The penis can get trapped in the ring, often causing swelling, bruising, and pain. 
  • Burns (chemical or heat)
  • Bites (human or animal)

Urethral injury: Injuries to the urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen, may also present with pain or bruising in the penis. The urethra may be injured in situations like car accidents, bike rides, or medical procedures with catheters (Leslie, 2022-b).

Can erectile tissue heal on its own? 

Sometimes, erectile tissue may heal on its own, depending on how severe the injury is. Studies show that milder (uncomplicated) penile fractures may heal well without surgery, but early surgical intervention can be beneficial and complicated injuries require surgery to heal properly (Muentener, 2004; Amer, 2016). 

If severe erectile tissue damage isn’t treated adequately, there’s a higher risk of complications, including (Nason, 2013; Chahal, 2016):

Because of the risk of complications, many patients with erectile tissue damage are treated surgically (Mensah, 2010).     

How to treat erectile tissue damage

If a person has signs and symptoms of erectile tissue damage, a healthcare provider may recommend tests to help make a diagnosis. Some common tests include a special type of ultrasound or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) (Cozzi, 2019). If they suspect the urethra may also be injured, you may need a special test called a retrograde urethrocystogram (Koifman, 2010). 

An individual’s symptoms and the results of their tests help determine the next steps and whether surgery is necessary to repair the damage. Surgical treatment can remove blood clots from the penis and repair the torn and damaged tissue (Wani, 2008). Damage that is repaired promptly has a much lower risk of long-term complications (Jack, 2004).      

Severe erectile tissue damage is an uncommon injury, but it’s important to identify and treat it immediately to avoid long-term complications. If you experience signs or symptoms of erectile tissue damage, it’s best to visit a healthcare professional right away. 


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