Erectile dysfunction

 

Erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (impotence) is the inability to get and keep an erection.

Occasional erection trouble isn't necessarily a cause for concern. However, if erectile dysfunction is an ongoing issue, it can cause stress, affect your self-confidence, and cause relationship problems. Problems getting or keeping an erection can also be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs treatment, and it is a risk factor for heart disease.

If you're concerned about erectile dysfunction, talk to your doctor. Sometimes, treating an underlying condition is enough to reverse erectile dysfunction. In other cases, medications or other direct treatments might be needed.

 

Symptoms and Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction symptoms:
  • Trouble getting an erection
  • Trouble keeping an erection
  • Reduced sexual desire
When to see a doctor

See your doctor if:

  • You have concerns about your erections or you're experiencing other sexual problems such as premature or delayed ejaculation
  • You have diabetes, heart disease or another known health condition that might be linked to erectile dysfunction
  • You have other symptoms along with erectile dysfunction
Causes

Male sexual arousal is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction can result from a problem with any of these. Likewise, stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction, and sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues causes erectile dysfunction.

Physical Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

In many cases, erectile dysfunction is caused by a physical issue. Common causes include:

  • Heart disease
  • Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome — a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist and high cholesterol
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Tobacco use
  • Peyronie's disease — development of scar tissue inside the penis
  • 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 spinal cord

Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction

The brain plays a key role in triggering the series of physical events that cause an erection, starting with feelings of sexual excitement. A number of things can interfere with sexual feelings and cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. These include:

  • Depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions
  • Stress
  • Relationship problems due to stress, poor communication or other concerns
Risk factors

Various risk factors can contribute to erectile dysfunction, including:

  • Medical conditions, particularly diabetes or heart conditions
  • Tobacco use, which restricts blood flow to veins and arteries, can — over time — cause chronic health conditions that lead to erectile dysfunction
  • Being overweight, especially if you're obese
  • Certain medical treatments, such as prostate surgery or radiation treatment for cancer
  • Injuries, particularly if they damage the nerves or arteries that control erections
  • Medications, including antidepressants, antihistamines and medications to treat high blood pressure, pain or prostate conditions
  • Psychological conditions, such as stress, anxiety or depression
  • Drug and alcohol use, especially if you're a long-term drug user or heavy drinker
Complications

Complications resulting from erectile dysfunction can include:

  • An unsatisfactory sex life
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Embarrassment or low self-esteem
  • Relationship problems
  • The inability to get your partner pregnant

Treatment

Oral medications

Oral medications are a successful erectile dysfunction treatment for many men. They include:
  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Tadalafil (Adcirca, Cialis)
  • Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
  • Avanafil (Stendra)
All these medications enhance the effects of nitric oxide — a natural chemical your body produces that relaxes muscles in the penis. This increases blood flow and allows you to get an erection in response to sexual stimulation.

Exercise

Exercise, especially moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, can improve erectile dysfunction. However, benefits might be less in some men, including those with established heart disease or other significant medical conditions.
Sometimes even less strenuous, regular exercise might reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction. Increasing your level of activity might also further reduce your risk.
Discuss an exercise plan with your doctor.

Psychological counseling

If your erectile dysfunction is caused by stress, anxiety or depression — or the condition is creating stress and relationship tension — your doctor might suggest that you, or you and your partner, visit a psychologist or counselor.

Symptoms and Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction symptoms:
  • Trouble getting an erection
  • Trouble keeping an erection
  • Reduced sexual desire
When to see a doctor

See your doctor if:

  • You have concerns about your erections or you're experiencing other sexual problems such as premature or delayed ejaculation
  • You have diabetes, heart disease or another known health condition that might be linked to erectile dysfunction
  • You have other symptoms along with erectile dysfunction
Causes

Male sexual arousal is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction can result from a problem with any of these. Likewise, stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction, and sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues causes erectile dysfunction.

Physical Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

In many cases, erectile dysfunction is caused by a physical issue. Common causes include:

  • Heart disease
  • Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome — a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist and high cholesterol
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Tobacco use
  • Peyronie's disease — development of scar tissue inside the penis
  • 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 spinal cord

Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction

The brain plays a key role in triggering the series of physical events that cause an erection, starting with feelings of sexual excitement. A number of things can interfere with sexual feelings and cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. These include:

  • Depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions
  • Stress
  • Relationship problems due to stress, poor communication or other concerns
Risk factors

Various risk factors can contribute to erectile dysfunction, including:

  • Medical conditions, particularly diabetes or heart conditions
  • Tobacco use, which restricts blood flow to veins and arteries, can — over time — cause chronic health conditions that lead to erectile dysfunction
  • Being overweight, especially if you're obese
  • Certain medical treatments, such as prostate surgery or radiation treatment for cancer
  • Injuries, particularly if they damage the nerves or arteries that control erections
  • Medications, including antidepressants, antihistamines and medications to treat high blood pressure, pain or prostate conditions
  • Psychological conditions, such as stress, anxiety or depression
  • Drug and alcohol use, especially if you're a long-term drug user or heavy drinker
Complications

Complications resulting from erectile dysfunction can include:

  • An unsatisfactory sex life
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Embarrassment or low self-esteem
  • Relationship problems
  • The inability to get your partner pregnant

Treatment

Oral medications

Oral medications are a successful erectile dysfunction treatment for many men. They include:
  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Tadalafil (Adcirca, Cialis)
  • Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
  • Avanafil (Stendra)
All these medications enhance the effects of nitric oxide — a natural chemical your body produces that relaxes muscles in the penis. This increases blood flow and allows you to get an erection in response to sexual stimulation.

Exercise

Exercise, especially moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, can improve erectile dysfunction. However, benefits might be less in some men, including those with established heart disease or other significant medical conditions.
Sometimes even less strenuous, regular exercise might reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction. Increasing your level of activity might also further reduce your risk.
Discuss an exercise plan with your doctor.

Psychological counseling

If your erectile dysfunction is caused by stress, anxiety or depression — or the condition is creating stress and relationship tension — your doctor might suggest that you, or you and your partner, visit a psychologist or counselor.