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How Does A Penile Erection Happen? Everything You Need To Know

UPGUYS > Blog > Sex > How Does a Penile Erection Happen? Everything You Need to Know
The person who wrote this article

Written by the UPGUYS Editorial Team
Published on March 01, 2022

Around 50% of all Canadian men experience some kind of erectile dysfunction some time in their lives. Yet this is a huge problem, which can severely damage confidence and link to other underlying health issues.

But do you actually know what makes this male organ function and how it works?

For many, the penis can seem like its own being, kicking into action without provocation and failing in times of need. Read on as we discuss how a penile erection happens so you can better understand the process. 

In this article, we talk about the following:

  1. Penis: The Anatomy
  2. How Does an Erection Happen?
  3. Erectile Dysfunction and How It Happens
  4. Seeking Help in Cases of Erectile Dysfunction

Penis: The Anatomy

The penis is the male sexual organ. Its construction comes from a number of different parts, each integral to its function. As well as its use during intercourse, the penis also acts as the main conduit through which urine can leave the body. 

The glans is the head of the penis. Unless circumcision has occurred, then the foreskin (prepuce) will cover it. Below is a soft skin named the mucosa, though this turns into dry skin when circumcision has taken place.

At the tip is the meatus. This is the small opening from which urine and semen get discharged. 

Attached to the head and connecting it to the body is the shaft. Along the sides of this are two tissue columns known as the corpus cavernosum. These are the points where blood will fill to cause a penis erection. 

Similar to this is the corpus spongiosum, which runs along the front of the shaft to the glans. Running through this is the urethra, which is the chasm through which fluids leave the body. The corpus spongiosum fills with blood during a penile erection, keeping the space open. 

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Erection: How Erection Happens

Sexual stimulation, also known as getting aroused, either physically or mentally, will instigate the first stage of a penis erection. This will send nerve messages to the penis, causing it to act.

When the messages are received, the corpus cavernosum begins to relax. Blood rushes into the chambers, filling them up. Once this happens, the blood is trapped there under high pressure, causing a penis erection. 

The corpus cavernosa is surrounded by a membrane known as the tunica albuginea. Its job is to trap the blood in the penis, sustaining an erection. The penis erection will subside when the penis relaxes and opens the outflow channels for the blood. 

Physical stimulation in the form of friction on the penis will cause sensations, which are transferred to the spinal cord and into the brain. They can be the cause of the erection or may occur after it has been caused by mental stimulation

The vas deferens are the tubes that store and transport sperm from the testicles. They will begin to contract and squeeze the sperm to the base of the penis. On its journey, it will be joined by secretions from the prostate gland and seminal vesicles. 

Ejaculation occurs when this mixture reaches the critical juncture. At the base of the penis, contractions will occur that force the semen from the head of the penis. 

Erectile Dysfunction: How It Happens

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to create or maintain an erection during intercourse. It can also manifest in decreased sexual desire. 

It is a complex procedure because penile erections are caused by a mix of both mental and physical stimulation. Muscles, nerves, hormones, the brain, emotions, mood, and blood vessels can all play a part.

If someone is stressed or has poor mental health, this can also be a cause for concern. 

Most causes of erectile dysfunction are physical. We have listed many of the possible causes below. 

  1. Clogged blood vessels
  2. Heart disease
  3. High cholesterol
  4. Blood pressure
  5. Obesity
  6. Diabetes
  7. Medications
  8. Parkinson's Disease
  9. Multiple Sclerosis
  10. Substance abuse, including drugs, alcohol, and smoking
  11. Low testosterone
  12. Spinal cord injuries
  13. Lack of sleep
  14. Cancer treatments

Psychological and mental issues may also be a cause. These issues include:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Depression
  3. Stress
  4. Relationship problems

There may be many other lesser-known causes. A consultation with a medical professional will be able to help identify these. 

Seeking Help in Cases of Erectile Dysfunction

Your regular doctor is the best place to start to discuss erectile dysfunction problems. They will check you physically and make a general assessment of your mental health. 

Make sure you inform them if you have delayed or premature ejaculation. Inform them of any other medical ailments as well, as there could be a link. If you have heart disease, diabetes, or conditions known to cause this problem, they may check if these are the cause. 

Another way to address the issue is to make better lifestyle choices. If you are unhealthy or failing to manage your current conditions, then doing so can solve or improve the problem. 

  1. Manage existing conditions
  2. Get a medical check
  3. Give up smoking
  4. Limit alcohol use
  5. Don't use illegal drugs
  6. Do regular exercise
  7. Improve your diet
  8. Reduce stress and improve mental health conditions
  9. Get enough sleep

Key Takeaways

Now you know how an erection happens. Think about your own situation. Address your mental health and see if you can change any circumstances to improve it. After this, change your lifestyle and work to improve your personal health.

If you don't see changes, then speak to a medical professional. This should be done regardless, as they may be able to make suggestions you did not consider.

This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information provided in the articles cannot and should not replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns or the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.