|What is erectile dysfunction?
ED is an inability to get and / or keep an erection that allows sexual activity with penetration. It is not a disease, but a symptom of some other problem, either physical, psychological or a mixture of both.
ED should not be confused with low libido (little interest in sex) or the inability to reach an orgasm or ejaculate. Premature (too early) and retrograde ejaculation (into the bladder) are also different problems which require a different approach to diagnosis and treatment.
Occasional ED is normal. There is no need to worry about the occasional failure to get or keep an erection. Some of the causes of occasional ED include excessive intake of alcohol, anxiety and tiredness. One of the most common causes of ED is middle aged men is lack of sleep.
How common is ED?
ED is very common and becomes even more common in older men. 52% of men over 40 years will suffer from ED. With each decade of age, the chance of having erectile problems increases.
How does an erection happen?
At a superficial level, getting an erection is a simple process. There are two tubes of spongy tissue that run along the length of the penis and this spongy material is surrounded by a tough fibrous, partially elastic covering.
A message is sent through nerves that leave the lower spinal cord, telling the blood vessels entering the spongy tissue of the penis to let more blood in. The flow of blood out of the penis is then blocked off so that the penis fills with blood and stretches within the outer casing. This creates an erection.
Underlying this relatively simple explanation is a very complex range of chemicals in the body that also work together to get the erection. At any one time, the muscle cells in the spongy tissue and in the blood vessels are influenced by a balance of chemical factors, some which cause an erection and some which encourage a flaccid (soft) penis.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Many factors can interfere with getting an erection and often two or three factors are present at one time. In other instances there appears to be no obvious cause for the erectile dysfunction; however, most cases of erectile dysfunction are physical in origin.
There are many diseases that interfere with the functioning of the penis by either reducing blood flow or affecting the nerves. Some of these diseases include heart and blood vessel diseases, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and alcoholism. When the ED is caused by a physical illness it usually develops slowly. Some prescription drugs, such as antidepressants and blood pressure medication can cause ED as a side effect. One in 10 cases of ED is caused by psychological factors. A man’s sex drive (libido) can be affected by stress such as problems at work or financial worries. Feeling depressed and anxious about poor sexual performance can also lead to ED.
Known causes of ED include:
Serious health (metabolic) problems:
Reduced blood flow:
Interference by medication, alcohol and other drugs
Interference with nerve function: