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What is Erectile Tissue?

By Andy Josiah
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Erectile tissue is any tissue in the body that is capable of becoming stiff, usually when it is filled with blood. Although this tissue is most commonly associated with sexual anatomy, it can also be found in other parts of the human body, such as the ears and nose.

The penis is the best known location for erectile tissue. This organ actually contains three tissue sections: two of them form a pair called the corpus cavernosa, while the third is named the corpus spongiosum. Known as corpus cavernosum in singular form, the corpus cavernosa are named for their cave-like structure. They line the penis shaft, with both sections joining together at the head.

The smaller tissue, the corpus spongiosum, is named for its sponge-like sections. In earlier times, it was referred to as the corpus cavernosum urethrae because it surrounds the urethra of the penis. This structure transports urine and semen.

The tissues of the penis work together to make sure that the organ is rigid enough to indicate sexual arousal and possible sexual intercourse. The corpora cavernosa's chambers receive a certain amount of blood to harden the organ, a state known as tumescence. Meanwhile, the corpus spongiosum retains an elastic state to allow ejaculation, which is the ability to eject semen. The inability of a man to achieve an erection is called erectile dysfunction (ED).

The corpus cavernosum clitoridis is the erectile tissue that serves as the female equivalent of the corpus cavernosum in the penis. Like the male reproductive organ, the clitoris has two types of the tissue. The vestibular bulbs, also known as the clitoral bulbs, are also included. They flank a female's urethra, the sponge that surrounds it, and the vagina.

The two different types of tissue in the clitoris have virtually the same functions as the corpora cavernosa and corpus spongiosum. The corpus cavernosum clitoridis and the vestibular bulbs fill with blood to cause clitoral erection. The latter, however, has the additional capability of shackling the vagina's opening. This causes the external borders of the vagina, known as the vulva, to swell in an outward motion.

Erectile tissue in the penis and clitoris are lined by endothelium. This is a thin layer of cells responsible for reducing the instability of the flow of blood, thereby permitting it to travel farther. They also have connective tissue known as septa, which enclose and separate them into smaller units. This results in the different types of tissue in the male and female genitalia.

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Discussion Comments

By umbra21 — On Mar 07, 2013

@KoiwiGal - It's amazing how popular that drug is really, when you consider it's only been around for a short while compared with many other medicines.

But then, it's a miracle drug in more ways than one. I actually wish it would become more prevalent around the world, because there are lots of places with dangerous myths about treating erectile disorders.

For example, the people who poach a lot of endangered animals believe that their parts will make them more virile. If they had access to this other way to reclaim their erection, maybe they would leave the tigers and rhinos alone.

By KoiwiGal — On Mar 06, 2013

I don't know if it's just a strange rumor, but I heard recently that one of the ways that the US army buys cooperation from chiefs in places like Afghanistan now is to bribe them with Viagra.

I mean, I guess they probably get erectile dysfunction as much as anyone else (generally they are going to be older men, maybe with more than one younger wife) and erectile dysfunction treatments can't really be used against Americans again later on, like guns or other gifts might be.

Usually if someone is suffering from that kind of condition I would tell them to talk to their doctor first, because often it's because of an underlying condition (erectile tissue is pretty hardy, usually) but in this case, I guess they are just happy to get the pills.

By clintflint — On Mar 06, 2013

It's kind of weird that there is erectile tissue in the nose and in the ears as well as the more obvious places. I guess I never really thought of the nose or the ears as needing to come erect.

From what I read the tissue in the nose, which is called the turbinates, at least has more to do with heating up and cooling down the air as it moves into the lungs, so that they don't overheat or freeze depending on the season.

What seems interesting is that they are also responsible for when you get brain freeze from eating too much ice cream!

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