Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction and Your Age: Is It Inevitable?

  • Is Erectile Dysfunction Inevitable?

    Sometimes ED is called impotence, but the terms are not always interchangeable, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Clearinghouse (NKUDIC). This slideshow focuses on the medical term, erectile dysfunction.

    So, is erectile dysfunction (ED) inevitable? The answer is no! Please click Next to find out why not and what to do if you suspect that you have ED.

  • What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

    Male sexual arousal may seem simple, but it depends on a precise, complex sequence of events inside the body. The brain activates nerves in the penis to relax muscles in the spongy tissues that run the length of the penis. When these muscles relax, blood can flow in from arteries to fill open spaces in the spongy tissue. 

    Increased blood pressure expands the penis, and membranes around the spongy tissue sustain the erection. Anything interrupting this sequence can cause the inability to have or keep an erection long enough for sexual intercourse.

  • Hope, No Matter Your Age

    ED is often associated with getting older. Although ED’s frequency does increase with age, it’s treatable regardless of your age and isn’t as inevitable as you might think. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), only 4 percent of men in their 50s and 17 percent of men in their 60s experience total inability to have an erection. In fact, ED can have many causes not associated with aging.

  • Medical Causes of ED

    Physical causes of ED abound. Any one of these can disrupt the delicate sequence of physiological changes that produces an erection:

    • obesity
    • diabetes
    • heart disease, and even high blood pressure or high cholesterol
    • low testosterone
    • alcohol or tobacco use
    • enlarged prostate
    • some prescription medications

    The Mayo Clinic offers a more complete list. 

  • Mechanical Disruptions to the Arousal Process

    Some ED causes on the list, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure or cholesterol, and enlarged prostate, seem mechanical in nature. Any constriction of blood flow from heart disease and artery blockages would hamper an erection.

    Now let’s look as some less obvious causes of ED.

  • Diabetes, Low Testosterone, and Nerve Damage

    The hormone testosterone affects a person’s sex drive and energy levels, which govern arousal impulses to the brain. Diabetes can also damage the nerves that signal increased blood flow to the genital area. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a man with type 2 diabetes is twice as likely to have low testosterone as a man who does not have diabetes. You doctor can test for diabetic nerve damage and low testosterone.

  • Alcohol, Tobacco, and Medication Side Effects

    Tobacco not only restricts blood flow, but can lead to serious diseases that may further impair sexual function. Alcohol slows nerve communications within the brain, which can affect arousal signals and physical coordination. Medicines affect different people differently. A drug that decreases sexual performance in one person might not in another. Click here for a list of antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure, and other medications that might cause ED as a side effect.

  • Your Mind and Heart Play Roles, Too

    Psychological and emotional stressors can inhibit sexual arousal. Nervous about tomorrow’s sales presentation at work? Depressed about a parent’s death? Angry or hurt by arguments with your spouse? Any of these can interfere with your feelings of sexual desire. Plus, not having or sustaining an erection, even once, for any reason, can spiral into greater anxiety and perhaps doubts about your sexual abilities and self-esteem.

  • Lifestyle Changes and Other Treatments

    The good news is that you can control most of the physical and emotional causes of ED we’ve reviewed here. For example, you can:

    • lose weight or quit smoking
    • try to improve your relationship with your sexual partner
    • choose less stressful responses to work challenges

    Such strategies might take a little research and trial and error to discover what works best for you. Be sure to consult with your doctor to address physical or medication causes of your ED. 

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