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The erection of the penis is its enlarged and firm state. It depends on a complex interaction of psychological, neural, vascular and endocrine factors. The term is also applied to the process that leads to this state.
A penile erection occurs when two tubular structures that run the length of the penis, the corpora cavernosa, become engorged with venous blood. This may result from any of various physiological stimuli. The corpus spongiosum is a single tubular structure located just below the corpora cavernosa, which contains the urethra, through which urine and semen pass during urination and ejaculation, respectively. This may also become slightly engorged with blood, but less so than the corpora cavernosa.
Penile erection usually results from sexual stimulation and/or arousal, but can also occur by such causes as a full urinary bladder or spontaneously during the course of a day or at night, often during erotic or wet dreams (see "nocturnal penile tumescence"). An erection results in swelling and enlargement of the penis. Erection enables sexual intercourse and other sexual activities (sexual functions), though it is not essential for all sexual activities.
In the presence of mechanical stimulation, erection is initiated by the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) with minimal input from the central nervous system. Parasympathetic branches extend from the sacral plexus into the arteries supplying the erectile tissue; upon stimulation, these nerve branches initiate the release of nitric oxide, a vasodilating agent, in the target arteries. The arteries dilate, filling the corpora spongiosum and cavernosa with blood. Erection subsides when parasympathetic stimulation is discontinued; baseline stimulation from the sympathetic division of the ANS causes constriction of the penile arteries, forcing blood out of the erectile tissue. The cerebral cortex can initiate erection in the absence of direct mechanical stimulation (in response to visual, auditory, olfactory, imagined, or tactile stimuli) acting through erectile centers in the lumbar and sacral regions of the spinal cord. The cortex can suppress erection even in the presence of mechanical stimulation, as can other psychological, emotional, and environmental factors.
The opposite term is detumescence.
Failure to achieve erection
- Main article: Erectile dysfunction
The consistant failure to achieve an erection may diagnosed as erectile dysfunction. This can have a number of causes.
Occasional failure to achieve an erection can be due to a number of factors such as drugs, physical illness stress,etc
- Age and erection problems
- Alcohol and erection problems
- Diabetes and erectile dysfuntion
- Illegal drugs and erection problems
- Physical illness and erection problems
- Prescription drugs and erection problems
- Stress and erection problems
Under some circumsatances an erection can persist in the abscence od sexual stimulation. This is a condition known as priapism.
- Drake, Richard, Wayne Vogl and Adam Mitchell. "Grey's Anatomy for Students." Churchill-Livingston, 2004. (ISBN 0-443-06612-4)
- Harris, Robie H. (et al.), It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex And Sexual Health. Boston, 1994. (ISBN 1-56402-199-8)
- Milsten, Richard (et al.), The Sexual Male. Problems And Solutions. London, 2000. (ISBN 0-393-32127-4)
- Tanagho, Emil A. (et al.), Smith's General Urology. London, 2000. (ISBN 0-8385-8607-4)
- Williams, Warwick, It's Up To You: Overcoming Erection Problems. London, 1989. (ISBN 0-7225-1915-X)
- Zilbergeld, B. (1992). The man behind the broken penis: Social and psychological determinants of erectile failure. In Erectile disorders: Assessment and treatment (pp. 27-51). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
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