Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the consistent inability to obtain or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual relations. An estimated 20-30 million men suffer from some degree of sexual dysfunction. The past 20 years of research on erectile physiology have increased our understanding of the biochemical factors and intracellular mechanisms responsible for corpus cavernosal smooth muscle contraction and relaxation, and revealed that ED is predominantly a disease of vascular origin. Since the advent of sildenafil (Viagra®), there has been a resurgence of interest in ED, and an increase in patients presenting with this disease. A thorough knowledge of the physiology of erection is essential for future pharmacological innovations in the field of male ED.
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