If You're Old Enough to Have Sex Why Not Do It Better!
Erectile dysfunction affects millions of men around the world. In the most recent Survey, 1 in 5 men will experience erectile difficulty sometime in their life – that’s 20% of all men. And the chances of having it only increases with age. While certainly not life-threatening, it does greatly affect a man’s quality of life: his self-confidence, his career, and his relationships.
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For many men, getting an erection is as simple as breathing. But it's an incredibly complex process involving a precise sequence of psychological and physiological events that can easily go wrong. Here's how erections work — and how science is helping millions of men treat erectile dysfunction.
Brain to Penis Communication
To fully grasp what causes it, and how physicians are treating ED, it's important to understand how erections work. For centuries, scientists have understood that the two paired cylinders within the penis, the corpora cavernosa, when trapped with blood, are responsible for the rigidity of an erection. But as late as the 21st century, scientists still weren't sure how the blood became trapped within the penis in the first place.
Indeed, without some kind of mechanism to trap the blood that's released during the initial stage of the erection, the increased blood flow stemming from sexual arousal would just flow into the penis and then flow out through the veins, making the penis full — or tumescent — but never hard. Interesting, there's no other part of human anatomy with a draining system that allows blood to leave at one time and then change to a system where the blood is trapped at high pressures.
Today, scientists have solved the mystery through an increased understanding of the corpora cavernosa. The interior of these cylindrical structures are like a sponge, with cavernous spaces lined with smooth muscle.
Every red-blooded man knows, an erection starts in the brain. Sensory or mental stimulation (i.e. sexual arousal) is followed by a burst of a brain chemical called nitric oxide which functions as a neurotransmitter. Nitric oxide causes the smooth muscle enzyme guanylate cyclase to produce a messenger called cyclic guanine monophosphate (cGMP), which acts to increase the size of blood vessels carrying blood to the penis, and decrease the size of vessels carrying the blood out. When the smooth muscles are relaxed, blood can flow in through the arteries and fill the spaces. This influx of blood creates pressure in the corpora cavernosa, making the penis expand. The tunica albuginea then acts like a trap door, keeping the blood in the corpora cavernosa, allowing for sustained erections. The whole thing comes to an end when muscles in the penis contract to stop the inflow of blood and open the veins for blood outflow.
Needless to say, erections are a complex physiological and psychological process with many potential points of failure, including nerve impulses in the brain (nearly 20% of ED is of neurogenic origin), the spinal column, the area around the penis, and the response in muscles, fibrous tissues, veins, and arteries in and near the corpora cavernosa. Any of these areas of anatomy, and/or the precise sequence of events, when disrupted, can result in ED. All sorts of classifications have been proposed for ED, some based on the psychological causes and some on the neurovascular and physical processes behind the erectile process.
Better Living Through Pharmacology
Medications are usually the first thing men are prescribed when coping with ED. In the late 1990s, the first effective medication, sildenafil (Viagra®), became available. It was soon followed by similar drugs like vardenafil hydrochloride (Levitra®) and tadalafil (Cialis®). They've been nothing less than revolutionary in the treatment of ED (Outside of Dr. Seltzer’s Hard-On Helper of course).
These drugs are classified as phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors, and they're some of the most widely used ED drugs on the market. They work by temporarily increasing the blood flow to the penis. These drugs, which are taken just prior to sex, enhance erectile function during sexual stimulation by penetrating into smooth muscle cells and inhibiting PDE-5 — an enzyme that degrades CGMP (as noted, a compound that contributes to smooth muscle relaxation). Basically, PDE-5 increases relaxation of the smooth muscle, resulting in increased blood flow — and sustained erections.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.