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What is erectile dysfunction?
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.
A physical cause can be identified in about 80% of cases. These include cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, neurological problems such as following prostatectomy, and drug side effects. Psychological impotence is where erection or penetration fails due to thoughts or feelings; this is somewhat less frequent, in the order of about 10% of cases.
Causes of erectile dysfunction may be physiological, psychological, or a combination of the two.
The most common physical causes are cardiovascular disease (30%), diabetes (15%), neurological problems (14%), and hormone disorders (14%).
These diseases account for 70% of erectile dysfunction cases. Cardiovascular disease includes atherosclerosis (fatty deposits on the walls of arteries, also called hardening of the arteries), hypertension (high blood pressure), and high cholesterol. These diseases can damage nerves and arteries that are vital to an erection.
Risk factors for erectile dysfunction include:
- Age: The risk of erectile dysfunction increases with age.
- Health conditions: Certain conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, can cause erectile dysfunction.
- Medications: Taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, can lead to erectile dysfunction.
- Psychological factors: Psychological factors, such as anxiety or depression, can cause erectile dysfunction.
Treatment for erectile dysfunction depends on the cause. If the cause is physical, treatment may involve medications, vacuum devices, surgery, or lifestyle changes. If the cause is psychological, treatment may involve psychotherapy, counseling, or sex therapy.
In some cases, treatment for erectile dysfunction may include a combination of these approaches.