What is ED and What Causes It?

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is a term used to describe a man’s inability to achieve an erection firm enough to complete sexual intercourse. Some men with this condition cannot obtain an erection at all. Others can get an erection and then lose it or get partial erections that never become firm enough.

Most men experience occasional erection difficulties, which is no cause for concern. Stress, medication, alcohol use, and several other factors could cause problems getting or keeping an erection once or a few times. It is only when the inability to achieve an erection at all or keep one long enough for satisfying sex that a man could possible have the medical condition of erectile dysfunction.

Erectile Dysfunction Could Be Due to an Underlying Health Condition

A man with erectile dysfunction may just consider it an embarrassing sexual problem. However, a lack of adequate blood flow to the penis could also indicate a problem such as high blood pressure or heart disease. Cardiologists have long considered erectile dysfunction to be a warning sign for future heart problems. That’s why speaking to your doctor about your erection difficulties is so important. You may feel embarrassed, but it is a common problem and the doctors at United Hospital Center (UHC) have helped many men in your situation.

Common Causes and Risk Factors of Erectile Dysfunction

Besides heart disease and high blood pressure, the following health conditions also put men at greater risk of developing erectile dysfunction:

  • Alcoholism and/or drug abuse
  • Atherosclerosis, which is the medical term for clogged blood vessels
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Metabolic syndrome, which is a condition that involves having high cholesterol, a high percentage of body fat around the waist, high levels of insulin, and high blood pressure
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Obesity
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Peyronie’s disease, which means that scar tissue has developed inside of the penis
  • Prostate cancer or enlarged prostate treatment
  • Sleep disorders
  • Spinal cord or pelvic area surgeries or injuries
  • Use of certain prescription medications

The above represent the most common physical causes of erectile dysfunction. Psychological factors may come into play as well. For example, you and your partner may be experiencing relationship stress or you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue.

The good news about erectile dysfunction is that some risk factors for developing it are within your control. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight can help to improve blood flow to the penis necessary for a satisfactory erection. You can also stop abusing alcohol or drugs if you do. However, you may find that you need outside help to do so.

Quitting smoking is also something very important you can do to reverse this condition and prevent many others. That is because smoking restricts the flow of blood to arteries and veins, which can eventually lead to erectile dysfunction. Be sure to exercise regularly, limit alcoholic drinks, and reduce the stress in your life as much as possible if you’re struggling with this common disorder.

Other risk factors, such as having diabetes or heart disease, aren’t entirely within your control. You can still work with your doctor to remain as healthy as possible, which can also help to improve your erectile dysfunction. Certain injuries or medications can increase your likelihood of erection problems as well.

Speaking to Your Doctor About Erectile Dysfunction

Untreated erectile dysfunction can lead to the development of other health problems along with relationship stress, depression or anxiety, and the inability to impregnate your partner. We encourage you to schedule an appointment with your urologist at UHC as soon as possible if you’re struggling with erectile dysfunction or other sexual issues such as premature ejaculation.

Your doctor can prescribe medication to help you achieve an erection so you can maintain a sexual relationship with your partner. He or she will also treat any underlying issues and monitor potential problems before they become more serious for you in the future.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing related symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.