If you're a guy with Peyronie's disease, you know you've been thrown a curve.
This condition, which affects more than 3 percent of men, arises when scar tissue forms along the inner wall of the penis. This happens because of problems with how broken blood vessels in the lining of the shaft heal from injury, perhaps due to athletic activity, even sex. If scar tissue becomes extensive, it can cause the surrounding tissue to contract. The erect penis then develops a curve of 30 degrees or more, triggering pain and making intercourse more difficult.
Until now, there's been no solution except for surgery, which could cause problems, too. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved injections of Xiaflex to treat the disorder. It's the same medication used to treat a thickening of tissue in the palm of the hand and fingers called Dupuytren's contracture. In a pre-approval study, penile curvature was reduced in 34 percent of those receiving the injections.
The treatment does have potential side effects, including hypersensitivity reactions and tissue and nerve damage. In the study, trauma to the spongy tissue in the penis affected three of about 400 men; surgery repaired the damage. And the treatment falls under the FDA's Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy program that alerts doctors to the potential risks associated with a medication.
It will be interesting to see how many men come forward now that there's a nonsurgical treatment; some researchers say as many as 22 percent of men may have Peyronie's disease.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.