Category Archives: Sexual health

Understanding Erectile Function and Dysfunction

Erectile function is not always understood by many men. You may not realize it, but men get erections every day. The penis is erect, typically, for about 2  hours out of every 24 hour period. This mostly occurs during deep sleep. That is why sleep is essential for proper erectile function. While a man is sleeping his penis is literally working out because the penis is primarily made up of blood vessels surrounding by smooth muscles. The smooth muscle relaxes and the blood vessels engorge (fill) and then the smooth constricts  and the increased blood flow returns to the body.Tthis happens about 4-6 times per night in perfectly healthy men. This penis muscle “work out” keeps the structure of the penis functioning properly for erectile function. When the night-time and morning erections stop, the muscles can atrophy (shrink) leading to worse erectile dysfunction.

Erections require blood flow and nervous conduction (communication between the brain and penis). Once a man is excited the brain sends a message down to the penis causing certain chemicals to be activated and leading to smooth muscle relaxation and vasodilatation in the penis. The penis begins engorged with blood and that swelling within the corpora cavernosa pushes against superficial veins locking the blood in the penis. Any disease that impacts blood (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc…) flow or nervous conduction (diabetes, chronic spinal disc issues, stroke, etc…), could potentially affect the ability to get a full erection. The most common medical conditions can lead to erectile dysfunction (if not well controlled) and that is why about 1 out of every 5 men will have erectile dysfunction in their life time.

To learn more go to videos I made for men & women with sexual dysfunction at:


Jeffrey Albaugh, PhD,  APRN, CUCNS