Erectile Dysfunction: Glossary of Terms

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on November 27, 2022
8 min read

Alprostadil: A type of drug called a vasodilator. These drugs can increase blood flow by expanding blood vessels.

Antiarrhythmics:Medications used to treat abnormal rhythms of the heart.

Antibiotics: Any of a class of medicines that kill infection-causing bacteria.

Antidepressants: Medications used to treat depression and other related conditions.

Antihistamines: Medications used to treat allergic reactions or allergies.

Antihypertensives: Medications used to treat high blood pressure.

Anti-inflammatory drugs: Drugs that reduce inflammation (swelling) by modifying the body's immune response.

Anxiety: A feeling of apprehension, often characterized by feelings of stress.

Arteriography: A test given to patients who are candidates for vascular reconstructive surgery. A dye is injected into the artery believed to be damaged so that the artery can be viewed by X-ray.

Atherosclerosis: Also called hardening of the arteries, it is a process in which the walls of the arteries become thickened and hardened, usually due to a buildup of fat deposits.

Avanafil (Stendra): A medication used to treat erectile dysfunction that works by increasing the flow of blood into the penis and reducing the outflow of blood.

Bladder: The sac that holds urine.

Bloody ejaculation: See Hematospermia.

Cancer: A disease that occurs when abnormal cells in a part of the body divide and grow uncontrolled.

Cavernosography: A test used in conjunction with the dynamic infusion cavernosometry (see below) that involves a dye being injected into the penis. The penis is then X-rayed and doctors are able to visualize a venous leak (see below).

Chemotherapy: In cancer treatment, chemotherapy refers to the use of drugs whose main effect is either to kill or slow the growth of rapidly multiplying cells. Chemotherapy usually includes a combination of drugs.

Cialis: A medication used to treat erectile dysfunction that works by increasing the flow of blood into the penis and reducing the outflow of blood.

Clinical trial: An organized research program conducted with patients to evaluate a new medical treatment, drug or device.

Complete blood count (CBC): A group of blood tests including hemoglobin concentration, red blood cell (hemoglobin/hematocrit) count, white blood cell count, and platelet count.

Corpora cavernosa: Two chambers in the penis that run the length of the organ and are filled with spongy tissue. These chambers fill with blood to cause an erection.

Delayed ejaculation: A delayed ability to ejaculate either during intercourse or with manual stimulation.

Depression: A disorder characterized by feelings of extreme sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, guilt, helplessness and hopelessness, and thoughts of death.

Diagnosis: The process by which a doctor determines what disease a patient has by studying the patient's symptoms and medical history, and analyzing any tests performed (blood tests, urine tests, brain scans, etc.)

Diuretic: Drugs that promote the formation of urine by the kidney.

Duplex ultrasound of the penis: A penile test performed by bouncing sound waves off tissue to determine penile blood flow.

Dynamic infusion cavernosometry: A test in which fluid is pumped into the penis so doctors can determine the severity of a venous leak.

Ejaculate: The fluid that is expelled from a man's penis during sexual climax (orgasm).

Ejaculation: When sperm and other fluids come from the penis during sexual climax (orgasm).

Erectile dysfunction: The inability to develop or sustain an erection satisfactory for sexual intercourse.

Erection: A state in which the penis fills with blood and becomes rigid.

Glans: The head of the penis.

Hematospermia: A disorder in which blood is found in the ejaculate.

Histamine H2 receptor antagonists: Medications used to treat stomach ulcers that work by decreasing the amount of acid produced by the stomach (e.g. Zantac, Pepcid).

Hormones: Chemicals that stimulate or regulate the activity of cells or organs.

Impotence:See Erectile dysfunction.

Infertility: The inability to conceive or produce offspring.

Intercavernous injection therapy: Treatment for erectile dysfunction in which a medication is injected directly into the penis.

Intraurethral therapy: Treatment for erectile dysfunction in which a medication, in suppository form, is inserted into the urethra.

Levitra: A medication used to treat erectile dysfunction that works by increasing the flow of blood into the penis and reducing the outflow of blood.

Libido: A person's sex drive.

Lipid profile: A blood test that measures the level of lipids (fats), such as cholesterol and triglycerides.

Luteinizing hormone (LH): A hormone produced by the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. In men, LH stimulates the production of testosterone, a hormone necessary for sperm production. In women, LH causes ovulation.

Meatus: The opening at the tip of the penis where urine and semen are discharged.

MUSE: The brand name of the intraurethral form of the medication alprostadil.

Neurologist: A medical specialist with advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles.

Neurological disorders: Those disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord, nerves or muscles.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Medications used to treat inflammation of the body's tissues.

Nocturnal penile tumescence and rigidity testing: A test used to monitor erections that occur naturally during sleep. This test can help determine if a man's erectile problems are due to physical or psychological causes.

Orgasm: Sexual climax.

Parenteral: Taken into the body in a way other than the digestive tract, usually injected in a muscle or vein.

Penile biothesiometry: A test that uses electromagnetic vibration to determine sensitivity and nerve function of the penis.

Penile implant: An inflatable penile prosthesis surgically placed in the penis. It allows a man to have an erection whenever they choose.

Penile injection: A medication that is injected into the penis in order to produce an erection.

Performance anxiety: When a person anticipates some sort of problem occurring during sex.

Peyronie's disease: A condition in which a plaque, or hard lump, forms in the corpora cavernosa of the penis. The hardened plaque reduces flexibility, causing pain and forcing the penis to bend or arc during erection.

Pituitary gland: Endocrine gland at the base of the brain that produces hormones that control other glands and many body functions, including growth.

Premature ejaculation: Ejaculation that occurs rapidly and sooner than desired, usually before or soon after penetration.

Priapism: A persistent, often painful erection that can last from several hours to a few days.

Promescent: A drug used to treat premature ejaculation. The topical spray is applied to the penis and contains lidocaine, reducing sensitivity and allowing for more ejaculation control.

Prostate cancer: Marked by abnormal growth of cells in the prostate, it is the most common form of cancer in American men (after skin cancer) and the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

Prosthesis: An artificial replacement of a part of the body.

Retrograde ejaculation: A condition that occurs when, at orgasm, the ejaculate is forced back into the bladder rather than through the urethra and out the end of the penis.

Rheumatologist: A doctor that specializes in disorders of the connective tissues and manages autoimmune disorders.

Scrotum: The sac of skin that surrounds the testicles.

Semen: The fluid containing sperm (the male reproductive cells) that is expelled (ejaculated) through the end of the penis when the man reaches sexual climax (orgasm).

Seminal vesicles: The sac-like pouches that attach to the vas deferens near the base of the urinary bladder. The seminal vesicles produce a fluid that contains sugar (fructose), enzymes, and nutrients. This fluid keeps the sperm energetic and liquefies thick mucus so that the sperm can move freely. The fluid of the seminal vesicles makes up most of the volume of a man's ejaculatory fluid, or ejaculate.

Sex therapist: A professional counselor for people with sexual disorders.

Sex therapy: Counseling for sexual disorders.

Shaft of the penis: Made up of the long, slender cylinders of tissue inside the penis that contain spongy tissue and expand to produce erections (corpora cavernosa).

Sildenafil (Viagra): A medication used to treat erectile dysfunction that works by increasing the flow of blood into the penis.

Sperm: The male reproductive cells.

Stendra (avanfil): A medication used to treat erectile dysfunction that works by increasing the flow of blood into the penis.

Suppository: A type of medication designed to melt at body temperature within a body cavity other than the mouth.

Tadalafil (Cialis): A medication used to treat erectile dysfunction that works by increasing the flow of blood into the penis and reducing the outflow of blood.

Testicles (testes): Part of the male reproductive system, the testicles manufacture the male hormones, including testosterone, and produce sperm, the male reproductive cells. The testicles are located inside the scrotum, the loose sac of skin that hangs below the penis. They lie outside the body cavity so sperm can mature at a cooler temperature.

Testosterone: The male hormone that is essential for sperm production and the development of male characteristics, including muscle mass and strength, fat distribution, bone mass, sex drive, and facial hair.

Testosterone replacement therapy: Treatment in which the blood testosterone level is returned to the normal range based on the man's age. This is done by administering testosterone either by implantation under the skin, skin gels, skin patches or by injection. Testosterone is not given orally to men.

Transurethral therapy: Treatment for erectile dysfunction performed through or by way of the urethra.

Tranquilizer: A medication that relieves anxiety.

Tunica albuginea: The thick, tough, flexible membrane surrounding the corpora cavernosa and testicles.

Ultrasound: A test in which a special device takes a "picture" of the body's tissues using high-frequency sound waves.

Urethra: The tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body.

Urinalysis: An analysis of the urine.

Urologist: A doctor who is specially trained to treat problems of the male and female urinary system, and the male sex organs.

Vacuum constriction device: A device in which pumped air out of a cylinder creates a vacuum, drawing blood into the shaft of the penis and causing it to swell and become erect.

Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn): A medication used to treat erectile dysfunction that works by increasing the flow of blood into the penis and reducing the outflow of blood.

Vas deferens: The long, muscular tube that travels from the epididymis into the pelvic cavity, to just behind the urinary bladder ending in the seminal vesicles, which in turn empty into the urethra through the prostate. The vas deferens transports mature sperm to the urethra in preparation for ejaculation. This is what is cut when a man has a vasectomy as a birth control method.

Vascular disease: A disease of the blood vessels.

Vascular reconstructive surgery: Surgery performed in an attempt to improve the flow of blood.

Vasoactive injection: A test in which an erection is produced by injecting special solutions that cause the blood vessels to dilate.

Venous leak: When the veins in the penis cannot prevent blood from leaving the penis during erection, preventing the erection from being maintained.

Venous ligation: A procedure in which veins are obstructed (tied or clipped) or removed, enabling an adequate amount of blood to enter the penis for erection.