What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

Learn what erectile dysfunction is in this Howcast video.

Transcript

Erectile dysfunction is a very common condition that affects many men throughout this country. It is estimated that over 30 million men are affected by erectile dysfunction. What it is, is either the inability to have a strong or firm erection, or the inability to sustain the erection during sexual activity, at least 75% of the time.

The causes of erectile dysfunction are many and varied. In general, the process of having an erection is very complicated. It begins at the level of the brain. Nerve impulses or signals are sent down the spinal cord to the bottom part of the spinal cord. Then those impulses then go to special nerves that go to the area of the penis.

The penis is a very specialized organ. It has specialized blood vessels and blood vessel tissue, and specialized connective tissue that allows the erectile bodies within the penis to become firm, and that's what causes the erection. So, the ability to have an erection is a complex interplay between the nervous system and the vascular system where blood vessels are involved in the process of having the erection.

For this reason, we talk about various causes of erectile dysfunction. And these processes can occur anywhere along the pathway at the level of the brain. There can be psychological factors such as stress, depression, anxiety, performance anxiety, which can affect your ability to have erections. There are various medical conditions which can affect blood flow or nervous signal transmission. Conditions, such multiple sclerosis or various other neurological disease processes that can affect or damage the nerves going to the penis.

Diabetes can play a factor, because it can not only affect the nerves going to the penis, but also the blood vessels going to the penis. Conditions such as hypertension, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol lead to deposition of plaques within arteries and blood vessels which can then reduce blood flow to the penile tissues. Trauma to blood vessels in the penile area can also affect the ability to have erections.

So, as we mentioned, there are numerous causes of erectile dysfunction. All the things that we discussed previously are potential causes for erectile dysfunction.

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