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How do erections and erectile dysfunction happen?

There are a lot of misconceptions about erections and erectile dysfunction which are necessary to dispel as the majority of our youth are misinformed and thus, succumb to such fallacies. Let’s dive a little deeper and find out about erections and erectile dysfunction.

An erection is a hardening of the penis caused by blood filling the sponge-like tissue inside the penis. An erection typically causes the penis to enlarge and stand apart from the body. Erections can disappear on their own or after ejaculation, which is the release of sperm through the urethra, a small hole at the tip of the penis.

Erectile dysfunction (Impotence) is the inability to obtain and maintain a firm enough erection for sex. Having occasional erection problems isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. If you have erectile dysfunction on a regular basis, it can cause stress, affect your self-confidence, and contribute to relationship problems. Problems obtaining or maintaining an erection can also be an indication of an underlying health condition that requires treatment, as well as a risk factor for heart disease.

5 body parts that enable erection

Brain- The brain is a complex organ that controls thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, breathing, temperature, hunger and every process that regulates our body. It creates fantasies and generates the signal for erections. It is the most important station.

Nerves- Nerves are like cables that carry electrical impulses between your brain and the rest of your body. These impulses help you feel sensations and move your muscles. They also maintain certain autonomic functions like breathing, sweating or digesting food.

Penile Artery- The arterial supply to the penis is the internal pudendal arteries, which become the penile arteries. Each penile artery terminates in bulbar, urethral, dorsal, and cavernosal arteries. It increases in diameter and fills the Penile Sponge with blood.

Penile sponge- Penile sponge, also known as the Corpus spongiosum, are the two cylindrical masses of spongy tissue surrounding the male urethra within the penis that fills with blood and causes erection.

Penile Veins- After blood flows to the penis to give you an erection, the veins along your penis take blood back to the heart.

The process of erection

There are five body parts involved in the process of erection, which are, the Brain/Mind, Nerves, Penile artery, Penile sponge and Penile Veins. In the process of erection the most important of these body parts is the brain. The brain creates fantasies that send signals through our nerves to the penile artery. Upon receiving signals from the brain the penile arteries expands, a lot of mediators are involved in this expansion of arteries, several chemicals are secreted most important of which is Nitric oxide. When nitric oxide is released the penile arteries expand which increases blood flow in the Penile sponge and allows penis to be erect. When the penile sponge expands, the penile veins are compressed which restricts the outflow of blood helping maintain the erection for an extended period of time.

Disorders and causes of erectile dysfunction in different parts


Erectile dysfunction caused due to problems related to the brain is known as Psychogenic erectile dysfunction. There are several causes for psychogenic erectile dysfunction. Let’s find out what these causes are and how they affect your ability to achieve erection.

  1. Fear and sexual failure

  2. Anxiety

  3. Depression

  4. Guilt about sexual performance

  5. Embarrassment from certain sexual activities

  6. Low self-esteem

  7. Stress about sexual performance or stress in general


Erectile dysfunction caused due to problems related to the nerves is known as Neurologic erectile dysfunction. Any interruption or delay in the nervous system can cause erectile dysfunction. There are several issues and conditions that affect the nerves and disrupt the flow of signals. Let’s find out what these conditions are and how they affect an erection.

  1. Injuries that affect your nervous system

  2. Surgery to the prostate or the bladder

  3. Diabetic neuropathy

  4. Multiple sclerosis

  5. Parkinson’s disease

  6. Epilepsy

  7. Heavy metal poisoning and alcoholism both affect nerve tissue

Penile Artery

The penile arteries supply blood to the penis causing it to be erect, any blockage in the arteries can restrict the blood flow in the penis. Erectile dysfunction caused by blockage of the arteries is known as Arteriogenic erectile impotence.

  1. Diabetes

  2. Tobacco use

  3. Alcohol abuse

  4. High blood pressure

  5. High cholesterol

  6. Obesity

  7. Low testosterone

  8. Arteriosclerosis

  9. Dyslipidemia

Penile Sponge

Penile sponge, also known as corpus spongiosum, is a very sensitive tissue that expands with the increased blood flow to form an erection. As it is very sensitive it may be susceptible to damage and make it hard to form an erection even with sufficient blood supply. Let’s find out about the different conditions that affect penile sponge and cause erectile dysfunction.

  1. Long term, excessive drinking

  2. Smoking

  3. Diabetes

  4. Prostate surgery

  5. Penile Trauma

  6. Ischemic priapism

  7. Non-ischemic priapism

  8. Idiopathic Fibrosis

Penile Veins

When the penile sponge expands due to increased blood flow, it compresses the penile veins allowing the penis to achieve erection by restricting the outflow of blood. If the veins are unable to retain blood in the penile sponge and it becomes difficult for the penis to maintain an erection. Venous leak-A type of sexual dysfunction where men experience venous leaks in their tissue causing soft erections-is a condition known as Venogenic erectile dysfunction. Young men who suffer from venogenic erectile dysfunction are born with the condition or develop it during their younger years and carry it throughout their life. Let’s look at some causes of venous leak.

  1. Psychological stress

  2. Neuro deficiencies

  3. Adverse effect of certain drugs

  4. Chronic diseases like diabetes

  5. Lower urinary tract symptoms

  6. Testosterone deficiency

Treatment: Once you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor. It can be completely treated with medical intervention coupled with specific physical exercises.

Helpful Exercises for Erectile Dysfunction
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