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Rise in ‘delicate’ medical emergencies seen in England’s A&Es

There has been a rise in people seeking A&E help for delicate complaints (PA)
There has been a rise in people seeking A&E help for delicate complaints (PA)

A&E departments are seeing a rise in people attending with unusual or delicate complaints such as fainting while urinating, prolonged erections and being unable to remove a “foreign object” from an intimate area, new figures show.

Data for England, analysed by the PA news agency, shows there has been an increase in the number of people seeking help for broken penises, a burning sensation when passing urine and sexually transmitted infections.

Leading emergency doctors said that A&E staff are trained to help people with potentially embarrassing problems with “confidence and respect” and urged people not to put off seeking help when needed.

Attendances for so-called “penis problems” rose by 34% from 13,911 in 2021/22 to 18,592 in 2022/23, and last year some 20,675 women went to A&E for “vagina problems”, a 30% rise on 15,930 in 2021/22.

In 2022/23 some 73,300 patients had a procedure to remove a foreign object after attending A&E.

While these figures will also include removal of objects in other orifices including eyes, noses and ears, the data shows that there were 1,502 attendances for “foreign body in rectum” and 5,421 people attended due to a “foreign body in the vagina”.

Elsewhere the figures show a 9% rise in A&E attendances for priapism – a prolonged erection of the penis – with some 373 men needing help for this painful condition last year, up from 342 in 2021/22 and 272 in 2020/21.

The nhs.uk website offers tips on how to initially treat priapism at home including a warm bath or shower, going for a gentle walk, urinating, drinking lots of water or exercises such as squats or running on the spot. It warns that icepacks can “make things worse” and urged men with the condition not to have sex or masturbate.

People are urged to seek urgent medical care if the condition lasts for more than two hours to “avoid permanent damage to the penis”.

Meanwhile some 432 men were seen in emergency rooms in 2022/23 due to “rupture of corpus cavernosum of penis” – also know as a “fracture of the penis” – an uncommon injury which occurs in an erect penis.

This represents a 25% rise on the previous year when there were 346 men seen for this condition.

The data also shows that some 1,593 people attended an A&E department in England last year because of “postcoital bleeding”.

Doctors also saw a 14% rise in the number of men who sought help for hydrocele – a condition where the scrotum becomes filled with fluid, causing it to swell and make it feel like a water balloon.

This accounted for some 2,276 attendances last year, up from 1,988 the previous year.

The data further reveals that 2,392 people were treated in A&Es last year for micturition syncope – a condition which causes people to feeling dizzy or light-headed, or having short-lived loss of consciousness when passing urine.

Also in 2022/23:

– More than 140,000 people went to English A&Es due to dysuria – a burning, itching or painful sensation when urinating.
– Some 5,728 attended due to phimosis – the inability to retract the foreskin covering the head of the penis.
– There were 737 attendances with symptoms of gonorrhoea, 1,191 for chlamydia.
– Some 12,000 sought help for thrush.

There has been an almost eight-fold rise in people seeking emergency care due to “caffeine poisoning”.

A total of 142 people sought help for caffeine toxicity in 2022/23, compared to just 18 the year before.

The figures show emergency doctors have seen a rise in illnesses which many people would assume have been eradicated in the UK.

Cases of smallpox rose from three in 2020/21 to seven in 2021/22 to 50 in 2022/23.

And 215 people were diagnosed with typhoid fever last year, more than double the 94 cases in 2021/22.

But the number of people diagnosed with plague fell from 95 in 2021/22 to 36 in 2022/23.

Earlier this year, separate PA analysis found that there was a rise in visits to emergency departments for complaints including sore throats, hiccups, coughs and earache.

Overall, some 8.6 million A&E attendances in 2022/23 resulted in the patient being discharged with written advice.

Hundreds of thousands of people walked out of emergency departments before their condition could be diagnosed, however.

Some 624,367 patients walked out before a first diagnosis in 2022/23, a 22% rise on the year before when 510,553 left before being told what was wrong with them.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “People attend A&Es with an array of issues, including some potentially embarrassing problems. Staff are trained to approach these problems confidentially and with respect.

“It is vital that if patients are concerned about something and feel they need urgent or emergency care, they should come to A&E.

“We don’t want patients with potentially important problems to feel deterred.

“Some symptoms may be signs of a more serious problem, and coming to A&E may be what is needed to diagnose that and receive the necessary and appropriate treatment.”

Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, added: “This data further shows the diversity of presentations that NHS teams manage every day.

“Fundamentally, these patients have urgent conditions that need timely, respectable care and, as for so many patients currently, this cannot be achieved in overwhelmed urgent and emergency care environments which are extremely distressing for patients.”