How Hard is a Normal Erection?

Above 22 on the "Erectile Function Index"

That's basically firm enough for penetration that leads to "satisfactory" sex

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Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

How Firm is a Normal Erection?

Erectile dysfunction 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.

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The Erectile Hardness Scale

Doctors often measure the firmness of your erections using the Erectile Hardness Scale. 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 take the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) questionnaire.

The Index of Erectile Function

This simple five-question quiz asks you to rank your erections in various situations (during the past 6 months) on a scale from 1-5. 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).

1 = Very Low / 2 = Low / 3 = Moderate / 4 = High / 5 = Very High

  1. How confident are you that you can get and keep an erection?
  2. When you get an erection with sexual stimulation, how often are your erections hard enough for penetration?
  3. Are you able to maintain your erection after you’ve penetrated your partner?
  4. Is it difficult to maintain your erection to orgasm or completion?
  5. How often is sex “satisfactory” for you?

Erectile Function Scores:

  • 22-25: No erectile dysfunction
  • 17-21: Mild erectile dysfunction
  • 12-16: Mild to moderate erectile dysfunction
  • 8-11: Moderate erectile dysfunction
  • 5-7: Severe erectile dysfunction

Obviously, these scores aren’t a medical diagnosis of erectile dysfunction or any other condition, but a low score on the erectile function index can indicate a serious problem with your blood pressure, testosterone levels, cholesterol, or a number of other health risks. A soft erection is a sign that something else is wrong.

Why Does a Firm Erection Matter?

The strength and frequency of your erection are an important indicator of your overall health. The blood vessels in the penis are smaller than arteries and veins in other parts of your body, so any problems like blockages, blood vessel dilation issues, or hormone imbalances will often 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 (generally more than two hours) can be dangerous as priapism (erections lasting longer than 2 hours) can cause tissue damage. If you’ve had an erection lasting longer than four hours contact a doctor or emergency care immediately.

Firm Erections and Erectile Dysfunction

If you’re having trouble getting or maintaining a firm erection, talk to your doctor (and talk to your partner). Erectile dysfunction is relatively common (even in younger guys) and there are a number of ways to treat the causes and symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

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