Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be caused by a number of physical and emotional factors including disease, injury, medication, stress, diet, lifestyle and even regular use of pornography. This common condition affects millions of men in the United States, and occurs when a man isn’t able to achieve or keep an erection that is firm enough for sex. ED doesn’t just impact your performance in the bedroom, it also dents your confidence. The condition usually occurs in men over 40, but the truth is that no matter what your age, erectile dysfunction can be downright frightening. In most cases, ED is nothing to worry about and there is no cause for panic. If it keeps on happening however, it’s important to seek help. Erectile dysfunction is often embarrassing to discuss, but the good news is that while ED can be difficult to talk about, it is also very often treatable. It is important to diagnose the root cause of your erectile dysfunction so that you can receive the best treatment for your unique situation. The causes of erectile dysfunction vary greatly. In older men, physical factors like disease should be looked at closely while in younger men, lifestyle choices and emotional issues like anxiety can be a key factor.
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Physical factors that cause erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction can be a short term condition that causes frustration, or a long term issue with more serious consequences. In most cases, ED does go away. Prolonged ED could be a sign of underlying medical issues, and a visit to your GP will help to rule this out for your own peace of mind. The physical factors that can cause erectile dysfunction include medical conditions, diseases and injury. Heart disease, clogged blood vessels, low testosterone, high blood pressure and diabetes are key causes of erectile dysfunction. Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Peyronie’s Disease are amongst the more serious conditions that can also inhibit your ability to achieve an erection. Prescription medications can also contribute, and you’ll want to make sure that you mention any that you are currently taking to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
How your lifestyle puts you at risk of erectile dysfunction
Lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking, drugs and diet can cause erectile dysfunction. If this is the case with your ED, a few tweaks in your eating, exercise regime and lifestyle habits could put you back on form. Tobacco and alcohol are common culprits that result in ED, along with obesity. Smoking inhibits blood flow around your body and to your penis, and this could prevent you from getting an erection. Alcohol could cause a one-off case of erectile dysfunction as it simply causes you to lose control over your body. Heavy drinkers and drug users, however, can experience long term issues with achieving erections. Being overweight also inhibits blood flow to your vital organs, and adding regular exercise to your lifestyle has excellent benefits for your overall physical, mental and sexual health.
Emotional and psychological causes of Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile Dysfunction is complex, and when diagnosing the causes of the condition, emotional factors should also be considered. 10 – 20% of erectile dysfunction cases are caused by psychological conditions like stress, anxiety and depression. A prior incidence of not being able to maintain an erection can result in low self esteem and a renewed anxiety about sex. This in turn increases your risk of impotence. Relationship issues can contribute to ED, and the guilt of not being able to satisfy your partner sexually can add to your anxiety. It’s important to remember that medications for conditions like stress, depression and anxiety can also contribute to ED and should be mentioned when seeking a diagnosis.
How is erectile dysfunction treated?
Starting a conversation about erectile dysfunction with your doctor is a great first step towards effective ED treatment. For many patients, medication is a successful way to treat impotence and your doctor could prescribe a medicine that increases blood flow to the penis, like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra. For men who suffer from low testosterone, hormone replacement therapy is a great option. Smokers, drinkers and drug users should consider a change in lifestyle while underlying issues like stress, anxiety and depression can be treated with a combination of medication and therapy. If the cause of your ED is an underlying medical condition or disease, your doctor will likely diagnose this and prescribe a treatment plan that works for you.
- Web MD, 'Erectile dysfunction: Psychological Causes,' Web MD [Web document] (2017), < https://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/ed-psychological-causes>, accessed 21 August 2019.
- Mayo Clinic, ‘Erectile Dysfunction,' Mayo Clinic [Web document] (2018), < https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes/syc-20355776 >, accessed 21 August 2019.
- NHS, 'Erectile dysfunction,' NHS [Web document] (2017), < https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/erection-problems-erectile-dysfunction/ >, accessed 21 August 2019.
- Medline Plus, 'Erectile dysfunction,' Medline Plus [Web document] (2019), <https://medlineplus.gov/erectiledysfunction.html >, accessed 21 August 2019.