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Erectile Dysfunction

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Male Reproductive Organs
Male Reproductive Organs

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is when it is hard to get or keep an erection that’s firm enough for sex. ED affects as many as 30 million men.

Most men have problems with erections from time to time. But when this happens more than half of the time, then ED is present. ED can happen when health problems limit blood flow or damage nerves in the penis. ED can also be caused by stress or emotional reasons. ED can be an early warning of a more serious illness. Heart disease, high blood pressure and high blood sugar can all cause ED. Finding and treating the cause(s) of your ED can help your overall health and well-being.

How Erections Work

When you are not sexually aroused, your penis is soft and limp. During sexual arousal, nerve messages release chemicals that increase blood flow into the penis. The blood flows into 2 erection chambers made of spongy tissue (the corpus cavernosum) in the penis. The “smooth muscle” in the erection chambers relaxes, which lets blood enter and stay in the chambers. The pressure of the blood in the chambers makes the penis firm, giving you an erection. After you have an orgasm, the blood flows out of the chambers and the erection goes away.

What are the Symptoms of ED?

When you have ED, it is hard to get or keep an erection that is firm enough for sex. Most men have trouble with erections from time to time, but in some men it is a regular and more bothersome problem. ED can cause:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Performance anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress

ED may affect the quality of a marriage or intimate relationships.

What Causes ED?

ED can result from health or emotional problems or from both. Lower blood flow or harm to nerves in the penis can lead to erection problems.

Physical Causes of ED

Some things that can increase the chances of getting ED (known as risk factors) are:

  • Age over 50
  • High blood sugar (diabetes)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise

Even though ED becomes more common as men age, growing old is not the cause of the problem. ED can be an early sign of a more serious health problem. Finding and treating the cause(s) of your ED can improve your overall health and well-being.

ED may happen because:

  • Not enough blood flows into the penis
    Many health issues can reduce blood flow into the penis, such as heart disease, high blood sugar (diabetes), and smoking.
  • The penis cannot store blood during an erection
    A man with this problem cannot keep an erection because blood does not stay trapped in the penis. This condition can occur in men of any age.
  • Nerve signals from the brain or spinal cord do not reach the penis
    Certain diseases, injury or surgery in the pelvic area can harm nerves in the penis.

Emotional Causes of ED

Sex activity needs the mind and body to work together. Emotional or relationship problems can cause or worsen ED.

Some emotional issues that can cause ED are:

  • Depression
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Stress at home or work
  • Worry about sexual performance

 Adopted from Urology care foundation