It’s not easy to talk about erectile dysfunction, but ED is more common than you think. Half of all men over age 40 have it, as do many younger men.1 Look around you. There’s a good chance that guy sitting next to you might have ED, or that the woman across the room is wondering how to help her partner find answers.

What Is ED?

Erectile dysfunction is when a man either can’t have an erection or can’t keep an erection long enough to have sex. ED is not a reflection on you or your sexual partner, since lack of arousal isn’t the problem.

Conditions that Can Cause ED

ED is often caused by one of several medical conditions that reduce blood flow and nerve functioning. This may sound like bad news, but there’s a silver lining — and hope. If a medical problem is causing your ED, it means there are many treatment options.

Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of ED. Chronically high blood sugar levels can result in nerve damage that affects your body’s ability to translate pleasurable sexual stimulation into an erection. Diabetes can also lead to issues with circulation, which reduces blood flow to the penis and makes it more difficult to keep an erection that is hard enough for intercourse.

Guys with diabetes often have heart problems as well, which means that using medication to treat their ED may not be an option. This doesn’t mean you need to give up hope, however. If you’ve been advised to avoid pills because of the risk of a dangerous interaction with your heart medicine, a penile implant may be a great alternative.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer isn’t considered a cause of ED on its own, but radiation treatments, hormone therapy, and surgery to remove the entire prostate gland can lead to difficulty in getting or keeping an erection. Sometimes erectile dysfunction related to prostate cancer treatment is only temporary, but many guys experience ongoing difficulties that need to be addressed by other means.

Your ability to orgasm is not connected to the prostate gland, although a man who has had a radical prostatectomy will have a dry orgasm with no ejaculation. As long as you have normal skin sensation, you should be able to have an orgasm with the right sexual stimulation. This means that treating your ED will allow you to resume a normal, healthy sex life.

Heart Disease

Did you know that erectile dysfunction precedes coronary artery disease in almost 70 percent of cases.2 The arteries in the penis are smaller than those that cause heart disease symptoms, which means they are likely to be affected by blockages sooner. When the arteries in the penis are blocked, keeping an erection will be difficult regardless of your level of arousal.

Kidney Disease

Hormones, blood flow, and parts of your nervous system must all work together to get and maintain a healthy erection, but kidney disease can affect all of the above. Certain medications may contribute to the problem as well, although medication-related erectile dysfunction may be treated by simply switching brands or doses.

Neurological Problems

Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS (multiple sclerosis), and temporal lobe epilepsy can lead to ED because they all interfere with the brain’s ability to communicate sexual desire to the reproductive system.

Getting the Help You Need

Untreated ED can damage your selfconfidence, causing a lot of stress— even depression and anxiety. Many guys with ED feel like their lives are out of control. The good news is there’s hope. Take back control. Use our Physician Finder tool to locate a doctor in your area who can provide information on how to best treat your ED.

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  1. Feldman HA, Goldstein I, Hatzichristou DG, et al. Impotence and its medical and psychosocial results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J Urol. 1994 Jan;151(1):54-61.
  2. Erectile Dysfunction and Cardiovascular Disease