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Everything You Need to Know About Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Symptoms Causes Incidence Diagnosis ED treatments Medications Natural Remedies Talk Therapy Alternative treatments Outlook

What is erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. It’s also sometimes referred to as impotence.

Occasional ED isn’t uncommon. Many men experience it during times of stress. Frequent ED can be a sign of health problems that need treatment. It can also be a sign of emotional or relationship difficulties that may need to be addressed by a professional.


What are the symptoms of ED?

You may have erectile dysfunction if you regularly have:

  • trouble getting an erection

  • difficulty maintaining an erection during sexual activities

  • reduced interest in sex

Other sexual disorders related to ED include:

  • premature ejaculation

  • delayed ejaculation

  • anorgasmia, which is the inability to achieve orgasm after ample stimulation

You should talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, especially if they’ve lasted for two or more months. Your doctor can determine if your sexual disorder is caused by an underlying condition that requires treatment.


What causes ED?

There are many possible causes for ED, and they can include both emotional and physical disorders. Some common causes are:

  • cardiovascular disease

  • diabetes

  • hypertension

  • hyperlipidemia

  • damage from cancer or surgery

  • injuries

  • obesity or being overweight

  • increased age

  • stress

  • anxiety

  • relationship problems

  • drug use

  • alcohol use

  • smoking

ED can be caused by only one of these factors or several. That’s why it’s important to work with your doctor so that they can rule out or treat any underlying medical conditions.

What causes an erection?

An erection is the result of increased blood flow into your penis. Blood flow is usually stimulated by either sexual thoughts or direct contact with your penis.

When a man becomes sexually excited, muscles in their penis relax. This relaxation allows for increased blood flow through the penile arteries. This blood fills two chambers inside the penis called the corpora cavernosa. As the chambers fill with blood, the penis grows rigid. Erection ends when the muscles contract and the accumulated blood can flow out through the penile veins.

ED can occur because of problems at any stage of the erection process. For example, the penile arteries may be too damaged to open properly and allow blood in.


How does age affect incidence of ED?

Up to 30 million American men are affected by ED, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The prevalence of ED increases with age. ED affects:

  • 12 percent of men younger than 60

  • 22 percent of men in their 60s

  • 30 percent of men 70 or older

Although the risk of ED increases with age, ED is not inevitable as you get older. It may be more difficult to get an erection as you age, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop ED. In general, the healthier you are, the better your sexual function.

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