Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or maintain an erection, or to achieve a satisfactory erection. Learn more ›

Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction

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.

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Treatment for 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:

  • 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

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Living with Erectile Dysfunction

  • Alcohol and drug abuse

  • Surgery (especially radical prostate and bladder surgery for cancer), which could injure nerves and arteries near the penis

  • Injury to the penis, spinal cord, prostate, bladder, or pelvis

  • Medication side effects—for example, with some blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants, tranquilizers, appetite suppressants, and the ulcer drug cimetidine

  • Depression, general sadness, low self-esteem, and other psychological conditions that might make a man more self-conscious about sexual performance

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Your Guide to Erectile Dysfunction

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Erectile dysfunction is a normal part of aging.