What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
What are some of the factors that cause erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is the repeated inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. The condition is also sometimes called "impotence."
Your brain, hormones, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles in and near the penis are all involved in getting an erection. In general, a problem in any of these areas can cause erectile dysfunction. As you can imagine, this includes a large number of individual factors. These factors can be broadly lumped into the following categories:
- Medical conditions
- Lifestyle factors
- Psychological factors
- Other factors.
One of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction is damage to the nerves, arteries, smooth muscles, and fibrous tissues of the penis, often due to medical conditions. Some of the more common medical problems that may result in erectile dysfunction include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart and vascular disease
- Kidney disease
- Dyslipidemia (high cholesterol).
While prostate cancer is not a cause of erectile dysfunction, treatments for prostate cancer can cause the condition. For example, prostatectomy (the surgical removal of all or part of the prostate gland) can damage the nerves and blood vessels involved in an erection. Hormone therapy can decrease sex drive or cause an inability to get an erection.
In addition, erectile dysfunction can be a side effect of many common medicines. Some of these drugs may include:
- Thiazide diuretics (water pills)
- Certain blood pressure medications
- Cimetidine (Tagamet®).
Certain lifestyle factors also can increase the risk for erectile dysfunction. Such factors may include:
- Alcohol or drug use
- Watching large amounts of television
- Having intercourse less than once a week
- Not exercising.
Experts believe that psychological factors can be a cause of erectile dysfunction or, if not an underlying cause, can make the condition worse. Examples of these factors include:
There are several other possible factors that can increase the risk for erectile dysfunction. Other factors include injury to the penis, spinal cord, prostate, bladder, and pelvis or surgeries that may damage nerves and arteries near the penis (such as bladder surgery).
It is worth noting that while the incidence of erectile dysfunction increases with age, it is not an inevitable result of aging. Instead, erectile dysfunction associated with older age is usually due to an underlying health problem or a side effect from a medication, both of which are more common in older individuals.
If you are experiencing sexual dysfunction, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she will be able to help identify risk factors that may be contributing to or causing your erection problems.