If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
How firm is a normal erection?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is about more than just the ability to get an erection (although that’s certainly a big part of it). It’s also about how hard your erections normally get, and if you can get an erection that’s hard enough and lasts long enough to have “satisfactory” sex. ED is really about how you (and your partner) feel about your sex life. And a lot of that has to do with how firm your erections get.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED) is about more than just the ability to get an erection (although that’s certainly a big part of it). It’s also about how hard your erections normally get.
- Healthcare providers sometimes measure the firmness of your erections using the Erection Hardness Score.
- If you’re having trouble getting or maintaining a firm erection, talk to your healthcare provider (and talk to your partner).
The erectile hardness scale
Healthcare providers sometimes measure the firmness of your erections using the Erection Hardness Score. It’s a simple starting point, but most guys know if they’ve moved from a 3 to a 2 on this scale:
- 0: Penis does not enlarge
- 1: Penis is larger, but not hard
- 2: Penis is hard, but not hard enough for penetration
- 3: Penis is hard enough for penetration, but not completely hard
- 4: Penis is completely hard and fully rigid
For a more comprehensive assessment tool, you can ask your healthcare provider about the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) questionnaire.
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The index of erectile function
A simplified version of the IIEF has only five questions. It’s not a perfect tool, but it’s simple, short, and gets you thinking about the difference between just getting an erection and being hard enough for penetration and a healthy sex life (because those are two different things).
- How confident are you that you can get and keep an erection?
- When you get an erection with sexual stimulation, how often are your erections hard enough for penetration?
- Are you able to maintain your erection after you’ve penetrated your partner?
- Is it difficult to maintain your erection to orgasm or completion?
- How often is sex “satisfactory” for you?
Why does a firm erection matter?
The strength and frequency of your erections are important indicators of your overall health. The blood vessels in the penis are smaller than arteries in other parts of your body, so any problems like blockages, blood vessel dilation issues, or hormone imbalances will sometimes show up as erectile dysfunction (or less firm erections) before something more serious like a heart attack or stroke.
Can erections get too hard?
If your erections are really strong, fantastic. Regular erections—including daily morning erections—are an important measure of a man’s health. If you get strong, frequent erections, that’s great! There’s no need to be concerned about being “too hard” as your body only has so much blood to offer. However, an erection that lasts too long can be dangerous as priapism can cause tissue damage. If you’ve had an erection lasting longer than four hours, contact a healthcare provider or emergency care immediately.
Firm erections and erectile dysfunction
If you’re having trouble getting or maintaining a firm erection, talk to your healthcare provider (and talk to your partner). Erectile dysfunction is relatively common, and there are a number of ways to treat the causes and symptoms of erectile dysfunction.