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Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is a type of sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual activity. ED can have psychological consequences as it can be tied to relationship difficulties and self-image.
Causes of erectile dysfunction can be both physical and psychological. Physical causes include:
- cardiovascular disease
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- metabolic syndrome
- Parkinson’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
- certain prescription medications
- tobacco use
- Peyronie’s disease
- injury to the pelvis or spinal cord
- radiation therapy to the pelvis
- surgery of the bladder, colon, or prostate
Psychological causes of ED can include:
- performance anxiety
- relationship problems
A variety of tests can be used to look for evidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, low testosterone levels, and other potential causes of ED.
Treatment for erectile dysfunction can be successful in the vast majority of cases. The first line of treatment is often making lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and increasing physical activity.
In some cases, medications can be used to treat ED. Commonly prescribed medications include:
- sildenafil (Viagra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
- avanafil (Stendra)
These medications work by relaxing the muscles of the blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the penis. In some cases, penile injections or penile implants may be used to treat ED.
ED can lead to:
- Anxiety and depression. ED can be a source of anxiety and depression for men. It can affect their relationships and their self-esteem. If you’re having trouble getting or maintaining an erection, talk to your doctor.
- Cardiovascular disease. ED can be a sign of an underlying cardiovascular disease. If you have ED, you may be at higher risk for heart disease.
- Erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign of more serious health issues. If you’re having trouble getting or maintaining an erection, make an appointment with your doctor.