What Really Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Sexual health is a term that refers to a range of functions in the male body. Erectile function is generally considered the primary function when looking at sexual health.

Other than erectile function, ejaculatory control and a healthy libido also play a part. Unfortunately, a large number of men fail to have and maintain an erection during sex.

An erection that is not fully rigid makes it hard for the man to enjoy sex. This also compromises the experience of the man’s partner in the bedroom.

Erectile dysfunction is a rather common condition in the male population.

According to a report by Cleveland Clinic1, about 52% of the adult male population experience erectile dysfunction. The risk for this condition dramatically increases among older men.

An estimated 40% of men will experience ED symptoms by the time they reach 40. By the age of 70, an estimated 70% of men are suspected of experiencing weak erections.

Understanding the causes of ed is essential. This can help men identify risk factors in their own life early on.

The man may be equipped with the knowledge to reduce their own risk of erectile dysfunction this way. We look at the symptoms and causes behind this common sexual dysfunction among the male population.

Symptoms Of Erectile Dysfunction

Recognizing the symptoms of erectile dysfunction is important among men. The condition can affect both older and younger individuals. Even though only about 5% of people younger than 40 experience ED symptoms, it is still a condition that should be recognized as early as possible.

When a man identifies the presence of erectile dysfunction at an early stage, they might be able to address the causes more effectively. This would improve the man’s ability to restore their ability to have a normal erection.

It is also important to consider the fact that erectile dysfunction may sometimes be a sign of heart disease and other conditions.

Early signs of erectile dysfunction may also signal problems with a man’s blood vessels. This makes it even more critical to notice the symptoms.

Intervention during an early stage not only improves erectile function but may also help to prevent severe cardiovascular disease. When looking at these connections, a man must become educated on the pathophysiology of ED2.

What Are The Most Common Signs Of Erectile Dysfunction?

Problems with a man’s erectile function is a common sexual dysfunction that male patients tend to report.

The condition tends to start slowly. At first, a man may link the symptoms to a stressful day at the office. This is normal, as stress is known to affect the libido of a male patient.

Treatment may only be considered once the condition progress and become worse. Difficulty getting an erection that is rigid enough for penetration is one of the most common risk factors a man should look out for. Some men can still get an erection, but it goes away too soon during sexual intercourse.

These are the two primary symptoms that have been associated with erectile dysfunction. The condition may not be present every time a man participates in sexual activities. When these issues are experienced most of the time, however, a man should be considered.

Not only may the erectile difficulties be an issue in the bedroom, but it may also sometimes be a signal for another serious condition. Vascular disease, for example, can cause a man to experience difficulty having and maintaining an erection.

A man with high blood pressure may also have problems in the bedroom. Untreated, high blood pressure gradually causes damage to the arteries. This can lead to more serious concerns. Hypertension has a strong connection to heart disease.

How Can You Check For Erectile Dysfunction?

Men should know how to check if they suffer from sexual dysfunction. With erectile function being particularly common in the male population, recognizing the symptoms is essential.

At the same time, simply having problems getting an erection at some occasions may not be a cause for concern.

A man should consider how persistent erectile difficulties seem to be. Furthermore, the man should consider contributing factors that may be causing them to experience erection problems.

When a man has a hard time getting an erection, looking back at their day is important. They should consider if things were particularly stressful.

When stressful events happen during the day, a man may still carry thoughts of the event around at night. This may interfere with his libido. A healthy desire plays a significant role in allowing a man to have a rigid erection.

How Do Health Care Professionals Diagnose Erectile Dysfunction?

When signs of ED persist, a man should realize how the diagnosis process works. Healthcare professionals will generally consider specific factors when a man complains about erectile problems.

A man should make an appointment with a physician if they are concerned about their performance in the bedroom. The first step would be for the physician to perform a physical examination. This can help the physician get a better view of the man’s current health status.

The physician will also ask questions about the symptoms of the male patient experience. This will help them determine if the man might have erectile dysfunction.

It also gives the physician an idea of what could be behind the ED symptoms the patient is complaining about. The physician will also request the man’s medical history. This allows them to identify potential risk factors.

The physician will generally try to identify the cause of erectile dysfunction. Several medical conditions are known to contribute to problems in the bedroom. One study found that the prevalence of ED in men with diabetes is 51.3%, for example3.

Common Causes Of ED

Several factors have been linked to the development of erectile dysfunction. Both young and older men are advised to become acknowledged with these potential causes. Both risk factors and direct causes need to be understood. This will help a man determine his own risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

Some risks are avoidable. With this in mind, it is sometimes possible for a man to prevent the development of erectile dysfunction. In some cases, conditions may contribute to erectile problems.

These scenarios require the health condition to be addressed. This may assist in improving erectile function in the man. By understanding the causes, a man is sometimes also able to prevent a worsening of an underlying health condition.

Who Is Most At Risk For ED?

Many of the risk factors associated with erectile dysfunction are avoidable. This means there are certain steps that a man can take to reduce the effects that these risk factors may have on his sexual health.

Thus, the first step is for the male patient to recognize existing risk factors in his own life. This helps the man determine what might lead to the development of ED symptoms. It also helps a man identify potential contributing factors if he is already experiencing a weak erection.

Important risk factors that men need to take note of include:

  • Weight: The weight of a male patient can have a significant impact on his likeliness of developing sexual problems. Obesity has been linked to several chronic conditions. Many of these conditions are known to be possible causes behind erectile dysfunction. Men who are obese may also experience a lack of energy and stamina. This may also have an adverse effect on the man’s erectile function.

  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Along with obesity, a sedentary lifestyle also plays a role in the risk of erectile dysfunction. When a man is sedentary, his risk of certain diseases also greatly increases. The patient is also more likely to become obese. This can lead to complications like heart disease. In turn, the man’s erectile function may be adversely affected.

  • Smoking: Smoking is an unhealthy habit practiced by millions of men. It is commonly known that smoking leads to cancer. Men should also realize that smoking can contribute to poor erectile function too. This is because the chemicals in cigarettes cause problems with the arteries. Smoking also elevates blood pressure. This can adversely affect blood flow.

  • Low Sex Drive: Erectile dysfunction depends on a man’s overall sexual health. When a man has a low sex drive or sometimes also called a low libido, then his erectile function may be adversely affected too. Sometimes, a low sex drive only affects a man on certain occasions. There are, however, cases where a man may experience a chronic low sex drive.

  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol use is another unhealthy habit that may interfere with a man’s abilities in the bedroom. It has been found that alcohol causes a restriction in blood flow. Particularly, excessive alcohol consumption leads to poor blood flow to a man’s penis. This can affect the man’s erectile function. Furthermore, alcohol can have a negative effect on testosterone production. Low testosterone levels lead to low libido. In turn, this can also cause ED symptoms.

  • Stress: In some populations, about 80% of people are suspected of suffering from chronic stress4. This is something that most people are facing daily in the modern world. Stress and psychological factors have many adverse effects on the body. Men with too much stress may find that it affects their sex drive. This reduces their desire to have sexual intercourse. In turn, the man is likely to find that chronic stress leads to ED symptoms gradually.

What Are The Most Common Causes Of ED?

Apart from risk factors, certain conditions may contribute to erectile dysfunction. Here, it is essential to understand the physiology behind an erection and common causes of ED.

Healthy blood circulation would be the primary point when it comes to having normal erections. It is not only the blood circulatory system that plays a role in an erection, however. There are nerves and other systems that come into play too.

Thus, men should understand what health conditions could also cause them to experience erectile difficulties.

Some of the most important physical causes of ED can include:

Men also need to understand that psychological factors can contribute to erectile dysfunction too. Men with depression are at a higher risk of developing problems with their sexual performance. Some studies have provided evidence on the connection between depression and erectile dysfunction5.

A condition called hypogonadism is also a possible cause. Sometimes, the condition is referred to as andropause. This is when there is a significant decline in testosterone levels.

Testosterone does not directly affect erectile function. It does, however, assist with the regulation of a man’s libido. There is a strong connection between low libido and erectile dysfunction.

What Medications Can Have ED As A Side Effect?

Men often do not realize that some of the prescription medications they take might be a cause behind their erectile difficulties.

There are quite a few different drugs that have been shown to cause problems with a man’s erectile function.

When a man experiences these symptoms, they should consider the pharmaceutical drugs they are taking. Sometimes, a change in medicine may assist in reducing the symptoms.

Examples of drugs known to contribute to erectile dysfunction include:

  • Thiazide diuretics (Chlorthalidone, hydrochlorothiazide, and chlorothiazide)

  • Spironolactone

  • Loop diuretics (Torsemide, Ethacrynic acid, and Furosemide)

  • Clonidine

  • Methyldopa

  • Guanethidine

Other medicines can also contribute. Men should always provide a physician with a full list of drugs they are taking.

This can help the physician identify medication that could be contributing to the ED symptoms.

Psychological And Physical Effects Of ED

Erectile dysfunction can have several effects on a man. It is important to understand what the potential complications of the condition are. This can help a man better realize what they should expect.

Furthermore, it can also help loved ones understand how the condition will affect the male patient.

What Are The Most Common Psychological Effects Of ED?

The psychological effects of ED are often a great concern. Men who develop erectile dysfunction will often find that their confidence in the bedroom declines. Some men may experience the effects outside of the bedroom too.

Performance anxiety is a relatively common problem in men with erectile dysfunction. This type of stress can greatly worsen the symptoms a man is already experiencing. Men may also develop general anxiety when they suffer from erectile dysfunction symptoms.

Apart from these, men also need to realize that there is a two-way connection between erectile dysfunction and depression. When a man has depression, they are at risk of erectile dysfunction.

On the other hand, erectile dysfunction can cause a man to become depressed. If a man already has depression, symptoms may become worse when they develop erectile dysfunction.

What Are The Most Common Physical Effects Of ED?

Some physical effects may come with the presence of erectile dysfunction too. Some medical experts suggest that ED is sometimes an early sign of heart disease. This means the development of these symptoms may be a sign that something more serious is going on.

Damage to blood vessels is a good example. This can lead to other health conditions.

Men also need to realize how the psychological effects of erectile dysfunction can affect their physiological health.

Depression is known to have several adverse effects on the body. It leads to insomnia. This causes a man to suffer from sleep deficiency. He becomes at a higher risk of being involved in an accident.

Other physical side-effects of depression may include:

  • An increase in the sensitivity to pain.

  • Blood vessels can become constricted, leading to a higher risk of heart disease and worsening existing symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

  • Men will likely experience fatigue if they have depression.

  • Weight fluctuations are widespread in men with depression too.

  • There is a higher risk of suffering from heart disease among male patients who have been diagnosed with depression.

  • The immune system also becomes weaker. This makes the man more likely to become sick.

How Can You Overcome The Psychological And Physical Effects Of ED?

Receiving adequate support is one of the most critical ways for men to overcome the effects that erectile dysfunction can have. The male patient should consider undergoing therapy at a licensed counselor.

A counselor would allow a man to talk about how erectile dysfunction is affecting them. The counselor may also make appropriate suggestions to help the man cope better with the situation.

Sometimes, couple therapy might also help if the man is in a stable relationship. This can promote open communication between the man and his partner.

Talking to a doctor can also give the man an overview of the treatment options that are available to him. This allows him to consider taking action against erectile dysfunction. When the erectile function is restored, the effects of the condition on the body may be reduced.

Treatment Options For ED

When a man suffers erectile dysfunction, there are quite a few options available. Erectile dysfunction treatment often starts with a visit to a doctor’s office.

The doctor will need to do some tests and conduct a physical examination. Identifying the cause behind the man’s ED symptoms is critical at this point. By addressing underlying conditions, a man is often able to experience an appropriate improvement in symptoms.

For example, when ED and diabetes6 are detected together, a physician may focus on addressing the problems with blood sugar regulation.

Improvements in managing diabetes might be able to help improve erectile function.

What Are The Surgical Options For Erectile Dysfunction?

In rare cases, a man may be advised that surgery could help improve erectile function. This is sometimes the case when a man is diagnosed with Peyronie’s disease.

The condition causes scar tissue to develop in the penis. Surgery may help to remove any plaque that has collected in the penis. It can also provide a tissue graft in the place of the plaque.

Other surgeries may also be advised, such as to reconstruct the blood vessels in the area of the penis. This might help to improve blood flow to the man’s penis. Since blood circulation plays such a critical role in the ability to have an erection, this type of surgery may yield effective results.

What Are The Most Effective Treatment Options For ED?

In most cases, surgery will not be the option recommended to men with erectile dysfunction. Instead, a physician may provide a man with a prescription drug.

Underlying conditions are generally addressed first. A man will usually be tested for heart disease and diabetes if they show signs of erectile dysfunction. Treating underlying conditions first may help to prevent severe complications in many cases.

There are a group of drugs that can help in treating erectile dysfunction. Viagra is considered the most popular option among these, but other options have been developed in recent years.

These drugs mainly work by increasing nitric oxide. In turn, the blood flow to the penis is increased. Alprostadil is sometimes used through intracavernous injection. This includes the use of intraurethral suppositories.

A man may also consider looking for a sex workout. These would generally be activity programs that focus on helping to address concerns like obesity and a sedentary lifestyle in the male patient. Pelvic floor exercises can also be of benefit by strengthing pelvic floor muscles.

What Supplements Can Be Used To Treat ED?

There are some supplements that men tend to use to help improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction too.

Many supplements promoted to help with ED do not provide adequate results. However, there are a few that have been proven to work effectively in scientific studies.

Panax ginseng is often considered a natural type of Viagra. Rhodiola Rosea might also provide beneficial results. Other options include L-arginine, DHEA, and Yohimbe.


  1. Cleveland Clinic. (2018) Erectile Dysfunction. [online] Available at: http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/erectile-dysfunction/
  2.  HHS Public Access. (2006) Physiology of Penile Erection and Pathophysiology of Erectile Dysfunction. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1351051/
  3.  The American Journal of Medicine. (2007) Prevalence and Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction in the US. [online] Available at: https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(06)00689-9/fulltext
  4. Hindawi Psychiatry Journal. (2018) Prevalence of Stress and Associated Factors among Regular Students at Debre Birhan Governmental and Nongovernmental Health Science Colleges North Showa Zone, Amhara Region, Ethiopia 2016. [online] Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/psychiatry/2018/7534937/
  5. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. (2002) Exploring the relationship between depression and erectile dysfunction in aging men. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11964139

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