The Science of Penile Erection

The Science of Penile Erection

To an average normal individual, erection may seem like a simple process that involves physical or sexual stimulation of male sex organs (such as penis), that is followed by an increase flow of blood to penis and resulting engorgement of cavernous tissues. But if you dig deeper, erection is a complex neurosensory phenomenon that involves synchronous functioning of several organs and organ systems.

How does erection work?

Erection begins with a physical or neurological stimulus that excites the sexual desires in an individual. In response to sexual stimulation, brain releases a potent neurotransmitter Nitric Oxide that initiates the series of nervous and muscular processes with the help of chemical messengers. These chemical messengers exert their action with the help of second messengers (cyclic guanine monophosphate (cGMP) to dilate the vessels carrying blood to the penis. The function of these second messengers are two-fold; while they increase the flow of blood to penis causing engorgement or pooling of blood in the cavernous tissues, they also reduce the caliber of blood vessels that are carrying the blood away from penis. This creates erection i.e. engorgement of penis due to increase in the blood flow and pooling of blood to 8 times the normal flow. This engorgement also becomes possible due to relaxation of smooth muscles within penile tissue to accommodate the increased flux of blood.

How is penile erection physiology unique?

Penis is perhaps the only tissue that is unique in its capability to pool blood in the penis, which is mainly due to sponge like anatomy of corpora cavernosa tissues of penis. The corpora cavernosa tissues are made up of smooth muscles that have the capacity to undergo massive expansion without undergoing any injury due to tension.

The tunica albuginea – another anatomical tissue layer of penis serves as a door-stopper by restricting the flow of blood.

How to maintain a healthy erection?

Any disturbances in the neural element (events leading from sexual excitation to penile erection) or muscular element (events starting from pooling of blood in penis to maintenance of erection until climax) can present with male sexual dysfunction. it is noteworthy that about 20% of all cases of erectile dysfunction have a neuropsychological element.

The muscular or vascular causes of sexual dysfunction include:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Severe cardiac disease
  • Cosmetic disorders of penis – such as inverted penis or micropenis; to name a few

If you are experiencing persistent issues in your sex life due to extra-neurological causes of erectile dysfunction, schedule an appointment with an expert to discover what treatment options are best for you.

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