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Erectile Dysfunction Health Center

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Blood Flow and Erection Problems

The corpus cavernosa are the two spongy chambers along each side of the shaft of the penis. When you have an erection, the smooth muscle in these chambers relaxes, blood flows in through the penile arteries, and the chambers fill with blood and expand. The expanded chambers press against the veins that would normally drain blood from the penis, trapping the blood inside and making the penis erect.

After ejaculation or when you are no longer sexually aroused, the arteries narrow, the veins expand, and the blood drains out. The penis becomes limp.

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10 Questions for Doctor About Erectile Dysfunction

Since you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with erectile dysfunction (ED), ask your doctor these questions at your next visit. Could an underlying illness be causing my erectile dysfunction or making it worse? Could any of my medications be causing my ED or making it worse? If so, can I safely change my medications or their doses? How might the use of tobacco or alcohol contribute to ED? Could stress or other psychological problems be contributing to my erection difficultie...

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Problems with the arteries and veins that supply blood to or return blood from the penis can cause erection problems. Vascular problems may be caused by:

  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) in the penis. This may block blood flow into the arteries that fill the penis.
  • Side effects of medicines, such as some high blood pressure medicines.
  • Leaking of blood from the veins in the spongy chambers in the penis.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised March 1, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 01, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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