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What are erection problems?

Erection problems can be a difficult topic to discuss, but if you have problems getting or keeping an erection, you have good reasons to talk with a doctor: Erection problems not only interfere with your sex life, they can be a sign of other health problems.

Erection problems can be a sign of blocked blood vessels or nerve damage from diabetes. If you don’t see your doctor, these problems will go untreated and can harm your body.

Erection problems used to be called impotence. Now the term erectile dysfunction is more common. Sometimes people just use the initials ED.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

Many different conditions can lead to ED. Many of the causes are health problems that affect the heart and blood vessels and need to be treated to help prevent more serious problems.

  • high blood pressure.

  • high cholesterol.

  • diabetes.

Unhealthy lifestyle habits can also contribute to ED. Anything that's bad for your heart is also bad for your sexual health.

  • alcohol and drug abuse.

  • smoking.

  • overeating.

  • lack of exercise.

Nerve damage from many causes can interfere with the signals that start an erection.

  • spinal cord injury.

  • treatments for prostate cancer, including radiation and prostate removal.

  • multiple sclerosis and other nerve diseases.

Some prescription drugs such as some antidepressants or high blood pressure medicines can cause ED. Your doctor may be able to change your drug treatment. Never stop taking a prescribed drug without talking with your doctor.

A small number of ED cases result from a reduced level of the male hormone testosterone.

ED also results from mental or emotional problems. We know that most ED has a physical cause. But depression and worry or anxiety can still cause ED. And ED from physical causes can lead to depression and worry, making ED worse.

Psychological causes of ED

Performance anxiety, stress, mental disorders clinical depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, personality disorders or traits, psychological problems, negative feelings.

Note: A person should not assume ED is part of the normal process of aging. Another cause most likely exists.

Your doctor can offer several ED treatments. For many men, the answer is as simple as taking a pill. Other men have to try two or three options before they find a treatment that works for them. Don't give up if the first treatment doesn't work. Finding the right treatment can take time.

Talking about ED can be difficult. Don't feel embarrassed about seeking help. ED is a medical problem, and your doctor treats medical problems every day.

How is erectile dysfunction treated?

Your doctor can offer a number of treatments for ED. You may want to talk with your partner about which treatment fits you best as a couple. Most people want the simplest treatment possible. You may need to try a number of treatments before you find the one that works best for you.

Lifestyle Changes

For some men, getting more exercise, quitting smoking, losing weight, and cutting back on alcohol may solve erection problems.


Even though most cases of ED have a physical cause, counseling can help couples deal with the emotional effects. Some couples find that counseling adds to the medical treatment by making their relationship stronger.

Oral Medicines

Since 1998, doctors have been able to prescribe a pill to treat ED. Many drugs are currently available. If your health is generally good, your doctor may prescribe one of these drugs. All ED pills work by increasing blood flow to the penis. They do not cause automatic erections. Talk with your doctor about when to take the pill.You may need to experiment to find out how soon the pill takes effect.

Even if taking a pill solves your erection problem, you should still take care of the other health issues that may have caused your ED.

Points to Remember

  • In addition to the above treatments, regular exercise is thought to help to improve symptoms.

  • A doctor can help you overcome erection problems.

  • Smoking, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, and avoiding exercise can contribute to erection problems.

  • Most cases of erectile dysfunction (ED) have a physical cause, but counseling can help couples build a stronger relationship.

  • Many men can take a pill to treat ED. These men should still treat the health conditions that caused ED.

  • Taking a pill doesn't work for all men.
  • Additional treatment options for ED are available for those who need them.