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Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual intercourse. It can be caused by physical and psychological reasons.
Erectile dysfunction is a common problem, affecting up to 52% of men between the ages of 40 and 70. It is more common in older men, but can occur at any age.
ED can have a range of causes, both physical and psychological. Physical causes include:
- cardiovascular disease
- neurological conditions
- penile injury
- pelvic surgery
- prostate cancer
- side-effects of medication
Psychological causes include:
- relationship problems
ED can have a profound effect on a man’s quality of life, affecting his self-esteem, relationships and work life. If you’re affected by ED, it’s important to see your GP for assessment and treatment.
Symptoms of erectile dysfunction
The main symptom of ED is an inability to get or maintain an erection. This may happen only occasionally, or it may be a regular or recurring problem.
Other symptoms may include:
- loss of interest in sex
- difficulty getting or keeping an erection
- premature ejaculation
Causes of erectile dysfunction
ED can be caused by physical and psychological factors.
The most common physical causes of ED are:
- cardiovascular disease – the narrowing of arteries preventing adequate blood flow to the penis
- diabetes – erection problems are common in men with diabetes
- neurological conditions – conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease can damage the nerves that control erections
- penile injury – a penile injury, such as a fracture, can cause ED
- pelvic surgery – surgery to the pelvis, such as radical prostatectomy (prostate cancer surgery) and colorectal surgery, can damage the nerves and blood vessels that control erections
- prostate cancer – prostate cancer can cause ED by pressing on the nerves that control erections
- side-effects of medication – some prescribed medications, such as antidepressants and high blood pressure medication, can cause ED
Psychological causes of ED include:
- anxiety – men with anxiety may be more likely to experience ED
- depression – men who are depressed may have a reduced interest in sex and may be more likely to experience ED
- relationship problems – if a man is worried about his relationship or his performance, this can lead to ED
- stress – stress can interfere with a man’s sexual arousal and cause ED
Diagnosis of erectile dysfunction
If you’re experiencing ED, it’s important to see your GP for assessment and treatment.
Your GP will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They may also