What causes erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the medical term for impotence. The term is used when a man can’t get an erection or keep his penis erect for sexual activity. It is not considered a disease but a symptom of other physical or psychological problems.
Sometimes, you may get erectile dysfunction if you drink too much alcohol or experience anxiety, stress, or tiredness. Don't worry if you experience occasional erectile dysfunction at times like these because this is normal. However, if ED continues for a long time, you may need to visit your doctor.
Can erectile dysfunction be cured? Or is it permanent? Here’s everything you need to know about erectile dysfunction symptoms, causes, treatment, and more.
You are more likely to have erectile dysfunction as you age. It can occur because of hormonal changes, psychological problems, certain health conditions, and other factors. These factors can reduce the blood flow to your penis and prevent it from becoming fully erect.
Erectile dysfunction causes include the following.
1. Health conditions
Certain health conditions can increase your risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Type 2 diabetes can affect your nerves and blood flow, leading to erectile dysfunction. Also, heart and artery problems can cause erectile dysfunction. High blood pressure and atherosclerosis, or buildup of cholesterol in arteries, can affect your ability to get an erection.
Apart from this, the following conditions can cause erectile dysfunction.
- Kidney problems like chronic kidney disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Peyronie’s disease, in which scar tissue makes the penis curve
- Priapism or swelling in the penis
- Hormonal problems such as low testosterone or thyroid hormone
Injury to the penis, spinal cord, prostate gland, urinary bladder, or abdomen can cause erectile dysfunction. Suppose you undergo prostate cancer treatment, prostate surgery, or bladder cancer surgery. In that case, you may be at a higher risk of erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction can be a side effect of certain medicines. They include blood pressure, prostate cancer, and ulcer medications. Appetite suppressants, which reduce hunger, can also lead to erection problems. Medicines like antidepressants, tranquilizers or sedatives, and eye drops for an eye condition called glaucoma can also cause erectile dysfunction.
4. Psychological or emotional problems
Psychological or emotional problems can cause erectile dysfunction. They include:
- Fear of sexual failure or sexual performance anxiety
- General anxiety
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling guilty about sexual performance or activities
5. Lifestyle factors
Lifestyle factors like drinking too much alcohol, smoking, or doing illegal drugs can lead to erectile dysfunction. If you're overweight and physically inactive, you may be more likely to experience erectile dysfunction. Sleep problems like lack of sleep or insomnia can also cause erection problems. Excessive steroid use is also a risk factor:
6. Other causes
Other causes of erectile dysfunction include poor sexual knowledge, improper sexual techniques, and poor interpersonal relationships.
What are erectile dysfunction symptoms?
Erectile dysfunction symptoms include:
- Getting an erection sometimes, but not each time you want to have sex
- Getting an erection but not being able to keep it for long
- Not getting an erection at all
How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?
If you have erectile dysfunction, you’ll need to visit a doctor like a urologist. You may feel embarrassed to talk to your doctor about erectile dysfunction. But your doctor needs to understand your condition to help you get better.
Your doctor will check your medical history to find any underlying conditions or injuries. They'll also check your sexual history to diagnose problems with erection, sexual activity, desire, or climax. They'll then conduct a physical exam to check your blood pressure, underlying conditions, and penis abnormalities.
Erectile dysfunction diagnosis involves using mental health tests to check for mental or emotional problems. Your doctor may order blood tests. They help detect erectile dysfunction causes such as diabetes, hormonal issues, atherosclerosis, or chronic kidney disease.
Your doctor may use imaging tests like Doppler ultrasound to measure the blood flow in your penis. They may also use the nocturnal or nighttime erection test to monitor the strength, duration, and number of erections you get. They may use an injection test, too. The doctor will inject a medicine into your penis to induce an erection and check its strength and duration.
Can erectile dysfunction be cured?
Erectile dysfunction is a symptom caused by physical, emotional, or lifestyle factors. It is temporary and can easily be cured. Your doctor will diagnose its cause and treat it.
Erectile dysfunction treatment includes the following:
Your doctor will ask you to:
- Quit smoking
- Reduce or stop drinking alcohol
- Do some physical activity
- Lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight
- Stop using illegal drugs
These are also ways to prevent erectile dysfunction. If you’re unable to make these lifestyle changes, consult your doctor to help you with it.
Psychotherapy or counseling
If you have erectile dysfunction due to psychological or emotional problems, a counselor can help you manage them. The counselor may ask you to bring your partner to the sessions to understand the issue.
Change the medicines that cause erectile dysfunction
If a medication you’re taking causes erectile dysfunction, your doctor may change the dose or suggest alternate choices. Don’t stop taking a medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Oral medicines like sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), tadalafil (Cialis), or avanafil (Stendra) help treat erectile dysfunction. They increase the blood flow to your penis and help you get and keep an erection.
Testosterone replacement therapy
Your doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy if you have low levels. However, it has side effects like increased red blood cell count and problems while peeing.
Injections or suppositories
For more robust erections, doctors prescribe alprostadil injections. They are directly injected into the penis to increase the blood flow. Some people insert alprostadil suppositories into the penis. A suppository is a medicine pellet that is inserted into the body, where it dissolves and acts immediately.
Some doctors prescribe a vacuum device. It causes an erection by pulling blood into the penis using a pump.
Doctors use surgery as a last resort. They may use surgery to implant a device to make your penis erect. They may also surgically reconstruct arteries to improve blood flow in the penis. Consult your doctor to know if you need surgery.
Erectile dysfunction treatment, like oral medicines, can have side effects, especially if you’re on other medications. If you use erectile dysfunction medicines with alpha-blockers used to treat prostate enlargement, you may have a sudden drop in blood pressure. Also, taking testosterone therapy with other medicines may cause severe side effects.
Consult with your doctor and inform them about your medical history before getting erectile dysfunction treatment.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Better Health Channel: "Erectile dysfunction."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Erectile Dysfunction."
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction," "Diagnosis of Erectile Dysfunction," "Preventing Erectile Dysfunction," "Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction," "Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction."
University of Rochester Medical Center: "Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence)."
Top Can Erectile Dysfunction Become Permanent Related Articles
Do Urologists Treat Erectile Dysfunction?Urologists are the doctors that can examine, diagnose and treat your erectile dysfunction (ED).
Erectile Dysfunction (ED, Impotence)Erectile dysfunction (ED, impotence) is the failure to achieve or maintain an erection. There are many potential underlying causes of erectile dysfunction, including stress and emotional problems, brain dysfunction, problems with blood supply to the penis, and structural problems with the penis.
Can Erectile Dysfunction Caused By Diabetes Be Reversed?Erectile dysfunction is a frustrating condition where your penis cannot get or maintain an erection firm enough for sex. There is no specific treatment to reverse damage to blood vessels caused by diabetes, there are several options to help you have erections.
How Do You Fix Erectile Dysfunction at 50?Erectile dysfunction isn’t necessarily a normal part of aging. Fix erectile dysfunction at 50 by making lifestyle changes, getting psychological help, getting medical or mechanical treatment, or considering surgery.
How Long Can Erectile Dysfunction Last?Erectile dysfunction is the inability to get or maintain an erection when you want one. Erectile dysfunction (ED) can last a few months to years.
How Long Does it Take to Cure Erectile Dysfunction?Erectile dysfunction is defined as your inability to get or maintain an erection. The length of time that it takes to cure your ED will ultimately depend on the cause.
Impotence QuizDid you know that certain medical condition may be responsible for ED? Some causes of impotence are medically treatable and reversible. Learn more about what can be done about erectile dysfunction with the Impotence Quiz.
Impotence SlideshowHaving erection problems? What is erectile dysfunction (ED)? Learn about erectile dysfunction causes and treatments such as drugs (pills), pumps, and more.
Is Erectile Dysfunction Always Permanent?Erectile dysfunction is defined as your inability to get or maintain an erection when you want to. Erectile dysfunction is treatable with counseling, medications, injections, physical devices, and other medical treatments.
Is Erectile Dysfunction Permanent?Erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs when you have trouble getting or maintaining an erection on a regular basis. Erectile dysfunction is treated with lifestyle, behavioral, medical, and surgical interventions.
Prostatitis (Inflammation of the Prostate Gland)Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland. Signs and symptoms of prostatitis include painful or difficulty urinating; fever; chills; body aches; blood in the urine; pain in the rectum, groin, abdomen, or low back; and painful ejaculation or sexual dysfunction. Causes of prostatitis include STDs, bacteria from urinary tract infections, or E. coli. Treatment for prostatitis depends on if it is a bacterial infection or chronic inflammation of the prostate gland.
What Are the Best Three Exercises for Erectile Dysfunction?What Are the Best Three Exercises for Erectile Dysfunction? Learn whether exercises can help and what other treatments can help to relieve your symptoms.
What Is the Fastest Way To Cure Erectile Dysfunction?Learn about the symptoms of erectile dysfunction, treatment options, and the quickest way to help you resolve the condition. It is more likely that you'll develop erectile dysfunction as you get older, but aging itself does not cause erectile dysfunction. Many factors can cause erectile dysfunction, including those that affect your endocrine, vascular, and nervous systems. What is erectile dysfunction, and what are the signs and symptoms? Learn about the risks and causes of erectile dysfunction and what treatments are available for erectile dysfunction.
What Is the Best Medicine for Erectile Dysfunction?The best medicine for erectile dysfunction (ED) depends on the cause of your condition, as well as your budget and lifestyle.
What Is the Main Cause of Erectile Dysfunction?Penile erection is a complex process in which the brain, nerves, muscles and blood vessels play a major role. The main causes of erectile dysfunction include psychological and health conditions, medications, trauma, and lifestyle factors. These may include depression, anxiety, stress, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, antiandrogens, appetite suppressants, and antidepressants, trauma due to an injury or a surgery, lack of exercise, or addictions (smoking).