It is not easy to talk about erectile dysfunction, but erectile dysfunction is more common than you think. Half of all men over age 40 have it, as do many younger men. 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. Erectile dysfunction often has a negative effect on sex life, and can cause additional stress, depression, and low self-esteem to both men and women.
The causes of erectile dysfunction can be psychological or physical.
1. Psychological factors –If you’re older, there’s probably a physical reason for your ED. But the causes can be in your head, too. Stress, depression, low self-esteem, and performance anxiety can short-circuit the process that leads to erection difficulties. A man’s sexual drive or performance can also be affected by stress such as problems at work, relationship difficulties or financial worries. Psychiatric conditions and feeling depressed or anxious about poor sexual performance can also result in a failed erection.
2. Age - Sexual dysfunction and ED become more common as you get older. Only about 5% of men age 40 have it. But the number rises to 15% of men age 70. This doesn’t mean growing older is the end of your sex life. Doctors can treat ED no matter your age. Age isn’t the only cause.
3. Diabetes - Men who have diabetes are two to three times more likely to develop ED than men who do not have diabetes. 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.
4. Surgery - including treatments for prostate cancer, bladder cancer, or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), can sometimes damage nerves and blood vessels near the penis. If the nerve damage is permanent, you’ll need treatment to get an erection. But sometimes surgery causes temporary ED that gets better on its own after 6 to 18 months.
5. Interference with nerve function - Spinal cord trauma, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease may cause interference to the brain to communicate sexual desire to the reproductive system.
6. Metabolic problems interfering with blood vessel function –Did you know that erectile dysfunction precedes coronary artery disease in almost 70 percent of cases? 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.
7. Hormone problem - In men, the hormone known as testosterone plays many roles. One of its roles is to increase sexual desire and help you to have erections. Low testosterone levels can result in erectile dysfunction. Testosterone affects both the ability and capability of a man to produce an erection. Diminished testosterone reduces libido or sex drive and in turn can affect the ability to develop and sustain an erection.
8. Interference by high consumption of alcohol - Alcohol is a depressant, and using it heavily can dampen mood, decrease sexual desire, and make it difficult for a man to achieve erections or reach an orgasm while under the influence.
9. Illegal drugs - Using illegal drugs may prevent you from getting or keeping an erection. For instance, some illegal drugs may prevent you from becoming aroused or feeling other sensations.
10. Smoking - can damage your blood vessels, and ED is often a result of poor arterial blood supply to the penis.
11. Weight issues – Losing weight may help reduce inflammation, increase testosterone levels, and increase self-esteem, all of which may help prevent ED. If you are at a healthy weight for your height, maintain that weight through healthy eating and physical activity.
12. Endocrine problems - Thyroid disease, Hypogonadism (a condition where the testes are not able to make enough testosterone [androgen deficiency] and/or sperm [spermatogenesis]
13. Unknown – in a few cases, neither physical nor psychological causes are obvious. Vascular disease is likely to be the underlying cause in these cases.
14. Taking certain medications
- ED may be a side effect of medication, including certain blood pressure drugs and antidepressants. While some drugs may treat a disease or condition, they can also affect a men's hormones, nerves, or blood circulation, resulting in ED or increase the risk of ED. Never stop taking any medicine before you discuss it with your doctor.