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What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

His Clinic · February 12, 2019

Erectile dysfunction is a complex issue, with as many potential causes as there are days in the year. But what is actually happening inside your body when you get an erection? And what’s going on when an erection doesn’t come to pass?

What causes an erection?


In order to understand what causes erectile dysfunction, it may help to understand the nitty gritty of the structures within your penis and the how and why of erections. Your penis is made up of three structures, like three different chambers; the corpora cavernosa which is the spongy tissue which extends the entire length of the penis. A membrane known as the tunica albuginea covers the corpora cavernosa and right at the centre of the penis is the corpus spongiosum, housing the urethra and the opening at the end of the penis through which a man urinates and ejaculates. Throughout the penis exists a network of veins and blood vessels which keeps oxygen running to the penile tissue and which expand allowing erections to take place.

You might be surprised to learn that there are not one, but three types of erections; reflexogenic, psychogenic and nocturnal. Reflexogenic erections are caused by physical touch, which results in arousal and an erection. Psychogenic erections are caused by erotic thoughts and things which turn you on, but don’t actually require physical contact in order to facilitate an erection. Finally, nocturnal erections seem to have little to do with sexual arousal, occurring during REM sleep, with up to five erections occurring per night for as long as half an hour each.

Regardless of the root cause of the erection, the mechanics of what makes your penis hard are always the same. The process of an erection starts in your brain; external stimulus triggers your brain to send chemical signals to the blood vessels in your penis. The neurotransmitter, nitric oxide is responsible for triggering an erection, causing the arteries in your penis to relax and open up. Once these arteries are full of blood, your veins close and the pressure traps the blood in your penis, this causes the corpora cavernosa to swell and makes your penis hard. It is thought that waves of nitric oxide continue to hit your penis during the course of your erection to keep the blood filling your arteries and keeping you hard.


What causes erectile dysfunction?


If anything goes wrong at any stage of this process, you may suffer from erectile dysfunction. Of the many things which may hinder this process, the most common include:

  1. Signals from your brain aren’t reaching your penis, or the wrong signals are getting through. This can be caused but neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Erectile dysfunction occurs when sexual arousal isn’t conveyed from your brain to your penis.
  2. You have low blood flow to your penis. This can occurs if you have a condition which hinders circulation in your body. Physical conditions that can cause this include; high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. If your body can’t get a lot of blood flowing to your tissues, an erection will be hard to get and maintain.
  3. You’ve damaged your erectile tissue. This can occur after medical treatments such as radiation or if you tear one of the three chambers in your penis. This most commonly occurs during sex when your partner is on top and your erect penis hits their pelvic bone at the wrong angle.
  4. Psychological blocks, not allowing you to become aroused in the first place. Problems in your relationship and mental health woes such as depression and anxiety may put a stop to your ability to become aroused in the first place. If your brain is deficient in the chemicals required to get you in the mood, or your thoughts are elsewhere, you will be unable to relax and focus on some lovin’.

While erectile dysfunction isn’t ideal, it is a common and treatable condition. It’s important to remember that erectile dysfunction isn’t a disease, but a symptom of something else which is going on in your body or mind and the first step to getting your sex life back on track is seeking help and support for any issues you may be having.


Learn more about E.D.

Treating erectile dysfunction is all about improving blood flow.  Most cases can be treated through habits and medications that enhance blood flow to the penis. Understand What Causes Erectile Dysfunction .


Reasonable care has been taken to provide accurate information at the time of creation but this is for informational purposes only.

This information is not intended to substitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to manage or diagnose a medical condition.

This information is not intended for use in an emergency. If you are suffering an acute illness, overdose, or emergency condition, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance

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