Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is the repeated inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. ED can be a total inability to achieve erection, an inconsistent ability to do so, or a tendency to sustain only brief erections. The penis may not stay erect long enough to complete or fulfill a sexual encounter.
Approximately 30 million men in the United States alone, suffer from ED to some degree. Studies show approximately 50% of men between the ages of 40 and 70, have ED to varying degrees.
Many men in their twenty's and thirties also experience difficulty achieving and sustaining an erection.
ED is treatable at any age and awareness of this fact has been growing.
There are many reasons why a man may develop ED. Despite the common myth, ED is not simply a result of aging, but is more likely to be caused by underlying health conditions and/or hormonal and nutritional deficiencies.
How does an erection occur?
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 muscle, fibrous tissue, spaces, veins, and arteries. The urethra, which is the channel for urine and ejaculate, runs along the underside of the corpora cavernosa and is surrounded by the corpus spongiosum.
Erection begins with sensory and/or mental stimulation. Impulses from the brain and local nerves cause the muscles of the corpora cavernosa to relax, allowing blood to flow in and fill the spaces. The blood creates pressure in the corpora cavernosa, causing the penis to expand. The tunica albuginea helps trap the blood in the corpora cavernosa, thereby sustaining the erection. When muscles in the penis contract to stop the inflow of blood, outflow channels are opened, and the erection is reversed.
Since an erection requires a sequence of events, ED can occur when any of these events are disrupted. This sequence includes nerve impulses in the brain, spinal column, areas around the penis, and a response in muscles, fibrous tissues, veins, and arteries in and near the corpora cavernosa.