As a urologist - a doctor specialising in the treatment of male reproductive organs - I have seen almost everything imaginable when it comes to the bodily areas we normally shy away from talking about. I cannot think of a condition that I haven't encountered at least once, or an issue that would shock me. But many men who visit me are embarrassed when telling me what's gone wrong - and I know there are countless more men who are too embarrassed to seek help at all when something doesn't feel right 'down there'.
One issue that I see frequently is Peyronie's Disease, which, in the simplest terms, causes the penis to curve. Almost invariably, the men who come to me with the condition have no idea how common it is. It is thought to affect between 3-7% of the global male population, a huge number considering awareness of the condition remains relatively minimal. And this figure could be even higher in reality as men are often reluctant to speak out when something seems wrong with their penis.
The condition causes curved and painful erections where fibrous scar tissue forms in the penis, as well as thickened nodules (called plaques) in the shaft. It's unclear why collagen is deposited in the penis like this - it's sometimes due to a genetic condition, or it could be caused by scar tissue formation brought about by an injury. For two per cent of patients there is a family history of the condition.
Not only is Peyronie's painful, but it causes varying degrees of sexual dysfunction. In turn, this can affect mental health and put a strain on relationships.
And, despite affecting more than 150,000 men in the UK, it is relatively unknown. Very few of my patients realise how common it is, and many of them say they hesitated before seeking help out of embarrassment.
They shouldn't. Not only is it an issue that doctors will have seen many times before - and, trust me, they will also have seen far more embarrassing ailments than yours - but it can, in some cases, get worse if left untreated. The condition resolves without treatment in about 12 per cent of cases, but in about half of them the deformity worsens (although the erection pain tends to diminish within a year or two).
On the other side of the coin, there are numerous treatment options available to get things back on track.
A specialist, such as a Consultant Urologist like me, will be able to talk you through the options based on your individual circumstances. The condition can be treated with a course of drugs or injections, or in some cases straightforward surgery to shorten a section of tissue in the penis. In others, time may be the best healer. With so many treatment options available, there's always a way to get a patient's penis back on the straight and narrow, but the important thing is to seek help as soon as you notice things changing.
Chances are, someone you know will be living with Peyronie's. Maybe you're reading this because you have it yourself. Until now, you might not have known that it has a name, never mind available cures. But support groups and treatments are out there, and I urge you to seek them out.
No matter how embarrassing you might think Peyronie's is, it's nothing that we haven't seen before. So when something changes down there; book an appointment with your GP immediately.
Don't let embarrassment about a common, treatable condition impact your life.
To find out more information, please visit www.thisispeyronies.co.uk