Erectile dysfunction (ED) is typically used to describe the repeated inability to attain and maintain an erection for sexual intercourse.
This condition is also commonly known as impotence. Impotence, however, may refer to other problems that interfere with sexual intercourse. These include a lack of sexual desire and problems with ejaculation or orgasm. Using the term erectile dysfunction makes it clear that those other problems are not involved.
It is normal for men to experience changes in erectile function, such as taking longer to achieve an erection. When the problem becomes persistent, it can be a sign of a physical or emotional problem. ED can be a total inability to achieve erection, an inconsistent ability to do so, or a tendency to sustain only brief erections.Learn more about the symptoms of erectile dysfunction ›
While nearly all American men experience occasional impotence, millions suffer from chronic impotence. But despite its prevalence, the condition, also called erectile dysfunction, is treatable in most cases.
Many cases of impotence are the result of physical causes, such as problems with circulation or nerves. Physical causes must be ruled out before impotence is blamed on psychological causes. It can also be a result of a more serious medical problem, such as arteriosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes.
These are some other causes of impotence:
Learn more about treatment for erectile dysfunction ›
Prostate cancer surgery, which can affect nerves which control erection
Hormonal dysfunction or low testosterone
Prescription medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, and other conditions
Heavy smoking, alcohol, or illegal drug use
An accident or injury to the penis
Unrecognized psychological problems, such as depression, stress, or anger
Sickle cell anemia