Erectile Dysfunction - Causes

What causes your erectile dysfunction?

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What causes erectile dysfunction?

Before an erection can occur, numerous organ systems in the body need to function properly. Should any or all systems fail, erectile dysfunction may result. These systems include the brain, hormone release, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, and emotional response.

The hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain need to function to stimulate the testes to produce the testosterone required for libido (sexual drive or desire). Injury, stroke, or a tumor may affect brain function. Hypogonadism (hypo=less + gonad=testicle), trauma, or surgery may result in failure of the testes to produce testosterone.

Nerve supply to the penis needs to be intact. Nerves can be damaged by trauma or surgery, especially after prostate surgery. Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to peripheral neuropathy and failure of nerves that support an erection. Multiple sclerosis is associated with erectile dysfunction.

Adequate blood supply needs to be delivered to the penis. Blood supply can be affected by trauma or surgery. More commonly, blood supply is restricted because of peripheral vascular disease or hardening of the arteries, the same scenario that can lead to heart attack and stroke. Patients with erectile dysfunction have a high likelihood of also having coronary artery disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes.

The muscles and tissues of the penis need to be capable of accepting the increased blood supply required to produce an erection. Damage due to trauma or surgery may be the underlying cause of a flaccid penis.

An appropriate emotional and psychological state is required to achieve an erection. Mental and emotional problems that could lead to erectile dysfunction include depression, mental disorders, stress, and performance anxiety. Side effects from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI antidepressants) like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro) can also be a factor in erectile dysfunction.

Return to Erectile Dysfunction (ED, Impotence)

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