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Why do I get random erections?

Are random erections normal?

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The definition of a random erection is an erection that occurs without physical or psychological sexual stimulation.

Random erections are not uncommon in men and are quite normal. When and if they occur, there is no reason to be concerned.

Random erections are more commonly experienced by teenagers and young adults although they are perfectly normal in older men too; this type of erection is more commonly experienced in the morning. Sometimes, fluctuations in the level of testosterone can be responsible for random erections.

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What is a normal erection?

Whilst random erections occur in the absence of psychological or physical sexual stimulation, what usually happens is that an erection occurs when a man becomes sexually aroused. Waking up to a random erection is particularly common and is known as nocturnal penile tumescence.

What causes an erection?

When a man is sexually aroused, several systems of the body begin to work together to achieve an erection, the systems include hormones, muscles, nerves and blood vessels. Nerve signals are sent from the brain to the penis which causes the muscles of the penis to relax. As this happens, this allows the blood to flow into the tissue of the penis.

When the penis is fully engorged with blood, the blood vessels which ordinarily drain the penis become closed and this allows the erection to be maintained. When the sexual arousal is over, the same blood vessels open up again and this allows the blood to leave and the erection to subside.

How are random erections connected to erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficiently firm and long enough to have satisfactory sexual intercourse.

It is perfectly normal for a man to be unable to achieve or maintain an erection on occasion, despite being sexually stimulated. The reasons this can happen may be that the man is tired, stressed or has had too much to drink; it may also be that there is no apparent reason for it.

If a man is experiencing random erections but is experiencing erectile dysfunction on a regular basis despite being aroused, it is likely that the cause for the erectile dysfunction is not physical but is psychological.

When should a man seek medical advice?

If a man is experiencing ED on a regular basis, whatever the cause it is important that he seeks medical advice. As we have said, if a man still experiences random erections despite having trouble achieving erections at other times, it is likely that the cause is psychological but it is important that a medical professional can rule out any underlying health issues. For the sake of completeness, we will briefly look at both the physical and psychological causes of ED.

Causes of erectile dysfunction

Physical causes

  • Heart disease
  • Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome - a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist and elevated levels of cholesterol
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Tobacco use
  • Peyronie’s disease
  • Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse
  • Sleep disorders
  • Treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate
  • Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or the spinal cord
  • Low testosterone

Psychological causes

  • Stress - there are very few people who go through life without experiencing some degree of stress in their life; money concerns, work stress, busy schedules, relationship problems….the list goes on! Stress is a major factor in people's lives and as a result, it represents one of the leading psychological causes of erectile dysfunction
  • Performance anxiety - a person's concern about their ability to ‘perform’ sexually can have a detrimental effect on whether they can perform or not. A vicious circle can be easily created
  • Depression/anxiety - whilst anxiety is a psychological problem, it can actually manifest as physical symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate and fatigue which can, in themselves, affect sexual performance
  • Guilt - if there is guilt surrounding infidelity issues or relationship problems, for instance, this can, in turn, result in a man being unable to perform sexually
  • Indifference - if a person feels indifferent generally this may manifest itself as ED. The cause of this may be a lack of interest in your partner, depression, trust in your partner or a loss of connection with your partner
  • Relationship problems - continuing on from the last point, problems within a relationship can be a huge factor in causing erectile dysfunction
  • Pornography - whilst pornography can be very useful when it comes to ‘spicing up’ a couple’s sex life, it can also have the opposite effect. This is because pornography may raise the expectations of one or both partners about all things sexual. It is important to remember that pornography is born of fantasy, not reality!

What can be done to avoid erectile dysfunction?

There are some things that can be that will help to avert the development or erectile dysfunction and they include:

Stop smoking

If you currently have a healthy sex life and you would like it to continue, it is imperative that you stop NOW! Smoking causes cardiovascular disease which is the most common cause of erectile dysfunction.

Eat a healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet is a good way to stay healthy in many ways. Eating well can reduce the chances of developing heart disease and diabetes, both major causes of ED. In general, if your diet is bad for your heart it will also be bad for your erectile health.

It has been shown that erectile dysfunction is not common in men who eat a Mediterranean diet which contains fruit, vegetables, whole grains and pulses, good fat such as olive oil, nuts and red wine - the latter in moderation!

Avoid obesity by keeping your weight down

As we have already outlined, obesity and all its issues are a common cause of impotence. If you are healthy and keep your weight down to within the healthy BMI range, it is less likely that you will develop ED along with many other diseases.

Don’t drink too much!

Whilst we have all heard the expression ‘brewers droop’ used to describe the inability to achieve an erection, it is also worth remembering that drinking too much can lead to long term erection problems.

Keep a check on your blood pressure

Good, unrestricted circulation to your penis is vital in achieving an erection. High blood pressure can cause damage to blood vessels and so impede the flow of blood. If you find that your blood pressure reads high on a regular basis, it is important to seek advice from your GP.

Check your cholesterol level

Researchers have not attributed high cholesterol levels directly to erectile dysfunction but the condition may contribute to ED.

Are your testosterone levels OK?

As a man gets older, testosterone levels begin to fall and this can lead to erectile dysfunction.

Symptoms that may suggest that you have low levels of testosterone are reduced libido, lack of stamina, moodiness and poor erections. If you are experiencing any of these along with ED, seek the advice of your GP who may be able to prescribe testosterone replacement therapy.

Check your medication

There are some prescription medicines that can cause erectile dysfunction and they include:

  • Diuretics (medication that increases urine production)
  • Antihypertensive medication (used to treat high blood pressure)
  • Antihistamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Medication to treat Parkinson’s disease
  • Antiarrhythmics (medication to treat heart arrhythmia)
  • Muscle relaxants

If you are taking any of these drugs and you think they may be causing erectile dysfunction then speak to your GP who may be able to prescribe an alternative that will suit you better.

It is important to note that illegal drugs can cause ED and so are best avoided. In particular, anabolic steroids are a drug used by some athletes. They can shrink the testicles and reduce their ability to produce testosterone which in turn can lead to ED

Avoid causing injury to the genital area

An injury sustained by the genital area can result in ED. Such injuries may be the result of necessary surgical procedures, however, some sports and risky sex positions can also cause injury

Take regular exercise

Taking regular exercise, in particular aerobic exercise, is important to all aspects of health and erectile function is no different. The exercise is particularly effective at keeping the cardiovascular system healthy which in turn ensures that blood supply to the genital area remains healthy.

Make sure you get enough sleep

Sufficient good quality sleep is another important in maintaining overall health. Lack of sleep interrupted sleep and poor quality sleep can all lead to ED.

Keep your mind healthy

As we have covered earlier, mental health can play a large part in erectile dysfunction. By maintaining your mental health, ED can be avoided. In particular, try to keep stress levels at bay and if necessary, use specific techniques to reduce stress such as mindfulness and meditation. It is worth considering stress management techniques as taking antidepressants and tranquillisers will compound the problem when it comes to erectile function.

Conclusion

We have covered a number of ways to protect yourself from developing ED, most of them involve keeping your body healthy as a whole through a good diet and exercise.

Whilst random erections are perfectly normal, if changes start to happen to the frequency and quality of your erections, then seek medical advice.

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