Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition with many treatment options.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition among men in which they are unable to achieve or maintain erection for sexual intercourse. Erectile dysfunction can stem from physical or psychological factors that interfere with sexual desire and performance.
Estimates suggest that as many as thirty million American men experience chronic erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, studies indicate that about half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 have ED to some degree. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available to men to help restore their ability to have an erection. Possible therapies include:
- Erection devices
- Sexual counseling
- Surgery – penile implants
Anatomy of the penis
The penis contains two chambers called the corpora cavernosa, which run the length of the organ. A spongy tissue fills the chambers. The corpora cavernosa are surrounded by a membrane called the tunica albuginea. The spongy tissue contains smooth muscles, fibrous tissue, spaces, veins, and arteries. The urethra, which is the channel for urine and ejaculate, runs along the underside of the corpora cavernosa.
How is penile erection achieved?
The physiological process of an erection begins in the brain and involves the nervous and vascular systems. The brain, for example, is where sensation of sexual arousal is experienced. The brain sends its arousal signal to the penile nerves. Nerves are the pathways from the brain and spinal cord to the penis, and are involved in releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. The nerve impulses go to the two erection chambers, the corpora cavernosa. Covering them is a dense, elastic fibrous envelope called the tunica albuginea. There, the nerve impulses cause relaxation of penile tissue and expanding of arterial blood supply. As the penile tissue relaxes and penile arteries expand, blood flows into the erection chambers causing the penis to swell in size. Veins that drain the blood are compressed against the inner wall of the tunica albuginea. The blood is thus trapped, making the penis hard and erect. Continued stimulation keeps the process going and maintains an erection. When stimulation ends, or following ejaculation, pressure in the penis decreases, blood is released, and the penis resumes its normal size.
There are different levels of erectile dysfunction.
- The penis does not harden enough to engage in sexual intercourse.
- The penis does not harden at all.
- The penis becomes erect, but softens again quickly.
There are several treatment options available to address erectile dysfunction. Read more about treatment options.