The latest issue of the International Journal of Impotence Research included several articles of interest from a CAM perspective, here and here. Here’s one more.

Men in Hong Kong who smoked more than 20 cigarettes daily had a significantly greater risk of erectile dysfunction than men who never smoked. Nothing new here. Similar results have been reported in other groups.

However, it raises the question of just how smoking can cause erectile dysfunction.

Normally, during an erection large amounts of blood flow into the penile arteries. This causes the veins that drain blood out of the penis to compress, thereby preventing the immediate outflow of blood.

Here’s what happens in smokers.

  • Less blood flows into the penis because the inflow route is blocked by the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis), caused, in part, by smoking
  • Rapid contractions in penile tissue (acute vasospasm), due to nicotine stimulation in the brain, restrict arterial blood flow into the penis
  • The valve mechanism that traps blood in the penis is impaired by nicotine in the blood stream

OK. Let’s review.

What should happen is that blood flows into the penis quickly, can’t get out, and the penis becomes enlarged and firm.

The effect of smoking over the long-term is to reduce the ability of blood to enter the penis and not allow it to accumulate. Thus, the penis looks like the flower above.

Now you know. What will you do about it?

8/28/06 21:51 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.