What Is Penile Ossification, the Condition Causing One Man's Penis to Turn to Bone?
Yep, it's as terrifying as it sounds.
A New York man received some jaw-dropping news when he went to a local hospital complaining of knee pain. The man had taken a fall while walking on the street and landed on his butt, so doctors did a pelvic x-ray to check for any broken bones that may be causing the pain.
What the x-ray revealed shocked them: The man's penis appeared to be slowly turning to bone.
According to a report published in the September 2019 edition of Urology Case Reports, the 63-year-old told doctors that in addition to his knee pain, he also had pain in his pelvic area. But he didn't have other symptoms, such as swelling or discharge, that may signal an infection.
When the doctors read the x-rays, "an extensive, plaque-like calcification along the expected distribution of the penis was evident," the authors of the report wrote, most of whom work at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where the man was treated.
"The diagnosis of penile ossification along the entire penile shaft was suspected," they wrote. Translation: Doctors suspected his entire penis might be turning to bone. But before they could run more tests to confirm the diagnosis, the man left the hospital, against doctors' orders. "No laboratory investigation, histological examination, or follow-up was done," according to the report.
Urology Case Reports
The authors wrote that penile ossification is an "exceedingly rare" condition, with less than 40 published case reports on this diagnosis.
Ossification occurs when calcium salts build up in soft tissue over time, forming bone. When this happens in the penis, it's often linked to a disorder called Peyronie’s disease, which causes scar tissue to develop inside the penile shaft and results in curved, painful erections.
But the doctors wrote that penile ossification can also be a result of other health issues, such as trauma to the penis, metabolic disorders, sexually transmitted infections, kidney disease, and cancer. They also noted that most reported cases occur in the mid-shaft of the penis, while this man's ossification occurred along the entire shaft.
The authors wrote that treatment for ossification depends on the severity as well as the symptoms of the individual patient, though they may include painkillers, penis “stretching” or vacuum devices, shockwave therapy, or surgery to remove the calcified tissue.
Since the patient decided to leave the hospital without further testing, what happened to him isn't known. But if his condition progresses, we have a feeling he'll making another trip to the hospital.
To get more sexual health stories delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for the Health Hookup newsletter