Erectile Dysfunction

The Causes and Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a sensitive topic which affects 5 percent of men over 40 years of age and 15 percent of men over 70 years of age. Men of all ages can experience mild to moderate erectile dysfunction, but it is most common in older men. Erectile dysfunction is a condition in which a man is unable to keep an erection that is firm enough to have sexual intercourse. Getting and maintaining an erection may not happen occasionally, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s erectile dysfunction. If it’s a chronic issue, then talking to a doctor and getting treatment may solve this issue.

Causes and Risk Factors

The brain, emotions, hormones, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles are all involved in male sexual arousal. If one or more of these are affected by physical or psychological issues, then erectile dysfunction can happen. Physical issues are the most common cause of erectile dysfunction, and some of these issues are:

  • Obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure
  • Heart disease, high cholesterol, and clogged blood vessels
  • Alcoholism, substance abuse, and tobacco use
  • Some prescription medications
  • Scar tissue inside the penis

Sexual arousal starts in the brain with the feeling of sexual excitement. When psychological issues interfere with sexual excitement, then it can be difficult to get an erection. Some psychological factors that contribute to erectile dysfunction include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Relationship problems
  • Personal or professional issues

The inability for a man to get an erection can also lead to embarrassment, low self-esteem, and an unfulfilling sex life.


Erectile dysfunction is relatively easy for a doctor to diagnose and treat. Generally, all it takes is a review of the patient’s medical history and a physical exam, which includes an exam of the penis and testicles to check for sensation in the nerves. An inquiry of a patient’s medical history is important because a medical condition like diabetes or a previous medical treatment like prostate surgery can cause erectile dysfunction. Other exams that a doctor may conduct include a blood test, a urine test, an ultrasound, or a psychological exam. The doctor may have the patient answer a sexual health questionnaire to help them understand the patient’s sexual history, sexual behavior, and the patient’s physical responses to sex.


If another medical condition like diabetes is causing erectile dysfunction, then the doctor will make sure that the diabetes is being treated properly. Once the underlying health condition is being treated properly, then the doctor can prescribe any variety of erectile dysfunction treatment options. If there are no physical issues causing the erectile dysfunction, then the doctor may send the patient to psychological counseling. If there are physical issues, the doctor may prescribe the patient an oral medication like Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra. The doctor may recommend a penis pump, a penile implant, or a blood vessel surgery if erectile dysfunction medications do not work.

Men should not be shy about discussing erectile dysfunction with their doctor because this condition could be a sign of a more serious health condition. Making healthy lifestyle choices like regular exercise and having a healthy diet can help prevent erectile dysfunction. In some cases, erectile dysfunction is a natural part of the aging process, but it is treatable.

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