Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction

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Amish Patel - NowPatientGreen tick
Updated on 5 Jun 2024

Erectile dysfunction is a common problem for men over the age of 40. Symptoms include difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection for sexual intercourse. This can cause stress, affect self-confidence and ultimately cause relationship problems. Here, we will take a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments available for this type of sexual dysfunction.

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (impotence) is the inability to get or keep an erection of the penis, firm enough for sexual activity. It can cause stress which affects you emotionally and physically. If you have problems with erectile dysfunction now and again, it won’t be a cause for concern. If however, it is a more regular occurence for you, it may be a sign of an underlying health condition. In this case you are advised to see your doctor.

What causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction may be caused by physical or psychological factors, or a combination of both. Physical risk factors include conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, nerve damage, changes in the balance of hormones in the body, and complications caused by treatments for prostate cancer. Psychological factors may include anxiety, stress, depression, and problems within your relationship.

Diagnosing Erectile Dysfunction

Seeking medical evaluation

If you are having difficulties getting or maintaining erections, speak to a healthcare professional. We understand that discussing sexual health issues is uncomfortable, but remember, healthcare professionals have years of experience and are trained to deal with your concerns with the utmost sensitivity. Seeking professional help is vital to finding the underlying cause of erectile dysfunction and creating a treatment plan suitable for you.

Medical history and physical examination

Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, if you have any other medical conditions, any medications you may be taking, and what your lifestyle is like. These factors may contribute to and affect your erectile dysfunction. Your doctor may also give you a physical exam to assess the health of your reproductive system. Your doctor may need to examine your genitals and check for signs of any abnormalities or underlying health conditions.

Additional tests may be needed to identify underlying health conditions. These may include blood tests, ultrasound imaging or psychological assessments, to rule out certain causes of ED.

Treating Erectile Dysfunction

Lifestyle changes

Changes in lifestyle can significantly improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Regular exercise, having a balanced diet, managing your weight, stopping smoking, reducing your alcohol intake, making sure you get enough sleep and reducing stress can all improve your sexual health.

Erectile Dysfunction treatment

Medications available include PDE-5 inhibitors, such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra), and avanafil (Stendra). These enhance the effects of nitric oxide, which relaxes muscles in the penis, increasing blood flow. Other treatments include alprostadil. These medications all require sexual stimulation to work and should be taken as directed by a healthcare professional.

Other treatment options

Sometimes medications may not be effective or suitable. In these cases alternative treatment options are available. These include:

  • Penis vacuum pumps: These act as a vacuum, drawing blood into the penis to achieve an erection
  • Penile implants: These are surgically placed in the penis

Treatment options should be discussed with your doctor to determine the best option available, based on your needs.


If your erectile dysfunction is due to stress or anxiety, counseling may be a good option for you. Counselling will help you identify mental health issues that may be causing your problem. You will be able to use your counseling to develop strategies to manage your erectile dysfunction and improve your overall sexual health.

Treating underlying health conditions

If your erectile dysfunction is caused by underlying health conditions, treating these will often help improve your symptoms. Treatment may include adjusting your current medication, making lifestyle changes, or using HRT (hormone replacement therapy).

Frequently asked questions

How common is Erectile Dysfunction?

Between 40 to 70% of men between the ages of 40 and 70 have trouble maintaining erections.

Is Erectile Dysfunction a normal part of aging?

While erectile dysfunction is more common in older men, it is not necessarily something all older men will struggle with. Aging may be a contributing factor for erectile problems, but other factors related to age, such as changes in the balance of hormones or other medical conditions may have more of an effect on erectile dysfunction.

Is Erectile Dysfunction permanent?

No. Erectile dysfunction may be due to an underlying health condition, which once treated may help restore sexual function.

Is Erectile Dysfunction linked to other health conditions?

Erectile dysfunction is linked to other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and kidney disease can all cause narrowing of arteries, reducing blood flow to the penis.

Can medications cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Yes. Certain prescription drugs, such as antihypertensives and antidepressants have been linked to erectile dysfunction as a side effect. You should speak to your doctor or a urologist if you think your medication may be causing erectile problems.

Is Erectile Dysfunction primarily a psychological issue?

Psychological causes do play a part in erectile dysfunction, particularly in younger men. Depression, stress, performance anxiety and low self-esteem can all affect sexual health. However, erectile dysfunction may also be because of physical causes.

Can low testosterone cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Low testosterone levels may affect erectile dysfunction, but not to such a large extent. Underlying health conditions and lifestyle play a larger part in erectile dysfunction.

Can lifestyle choices affect Erectile Dysfunction?

Smoking, alcohol and a poor diet may affect your ability to achieve and maintain erections. These habits may restrict blood flow to the penis, cause damage to blood vessels and affect your health in general. Quitting smoking, reducing your alcohol intake and having a well balanced diet will all help improve your erectile function and general health.

Can Erectile Dysfunction affect ejaculation?

Erectile dysfunction does not affect ejaculation. Ejaculation problems normally occur when arousal, orgasm and ejaculation occur very quickly in succession.

Can Erectile Dysfunction lead to infertility?

Erectile dysfunction does not cause infertility. However, being unable to achieve or maintain an erection, may affect your ability to conceive.

Do certain foods cause Erectile Dysfunction?

There is no evidence to show that any foods cause erection problems. However, a healthy balanced diet will help maintain your overall sexual health.

What can I do about Erectile Dysfunction?

Make sure you stick to a healthy lifestyle. Limit your alcohol consumption, exercise and maintain a healthy balanced diet. If you do have erectile dysfunction speak to your doctor who diagnose the underlying cause and recommend treatment options for you.

When should I see a Doctor for Erectile Dysfunction?

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist for medical advice if erectile dysfunction is a regular occurrence and is causing you to become depressed or stressed.


Erectile dysfunction may be caused by physical or psychological factors or a combination of both. Speak to your doctor who will evaluate your symptoms and decide the best course of treatment for you. Treatment options may include, changes to your lifestyle, medication, or other alternative treatments.


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