Erectile Dysfunction Causes and Treatments

Written by Brian Krans and Valencia Higuera | Published on April 2, 2015
Medically Reviewed by Healthline Medical Team on April 2, 2015

What No Guy Wants to Talk About

Let’s call it the elephant in the bedroom. Something isn’t working right and you need to fix it.

When you suffer from ED, you’re probably asking yourself two critical questions: “Is erectile dysfunction permanent?” and “Can this problem be fixed?”

It’s a difficult topic to discuss, but ED isn’t uncommon. In fact, it is the most common sexual problem for men. It affects an estimated 15 to 30 million American men, according to the Urology Care Foundation. Making lifestyle changes can help improve your ED, but there are some factors you’ll have to talk to your doctor about.

Learn the causes of erectile dysfunction (also known as impotence) and how you can stop it.

Mental Factors Can Cause Problems

For some people, sex isn’t as enjoyable as it could be. Depression, stress, and fatigue can contribute to erectile dysfunction by disrupting feelings of sexual excitement in the brain, according to Mayo Clinic. While sex can be a stress reliever, ED can make sex a stressful chore.

Relationship problems can also contribute to erectile dysfunction. Arguments, stress, and bad communication can make the bedroom an uncomfortable place. This is why it’s important for couples to communicate openly and honestly with each other.

Bad News About Bad Habits

Now’s the time to finally quit smoking or cut down on your drinking if you’re looking for a treatment for ED. Tobacco use, heavy alcohol consumption, and other substance abuse, including too much caffeine, all tend to constrict blood vessels, reports the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. This can lead to or worsen ED. 

Time to Lose Some Weight

Obesity is a common factor related to ED. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are also tied to obesity and erectile dysfunction. These conditions pose significant health risks and can affect sexual performance.

Cardiovascular exercises such as swimming, running, and bicycling help shed pounds and increase oxygen and blood perfusion throughout the body (including your penis). Added bonus: a slimmer, tighter physique might make you feel more confident in the bedroom. 

ED as a Side Effect

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by several other physical problems besides obesity and obesity-related diseases, including:

  • atherosclerosis (clogged blood vessels)
  • low testosterone levels
  • diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis
  • metabolic syndrome
  • certain prescription medications

Peyronie’s Disease and Surgery

Peyronie’s disease involves abnormal curvature of the penis during an erection. This can cause erectile dysfunction as fibrous scar tissue develops under the skin of the penis. Other symptoms of Peyronie’s include pain during an erection and intercourse. 

Surgeries or injuries in the pelvic or lower spinal region can also cause erectile dysfunction. You may need medical treatment depending on the physical cause of your ED. 

Treatments for Impotence

There are several ways to treat erectile dysfunction besides quitting bad habits and starting good ones. The most common treatment consists of oral medications. Three common medications are sildenafil (brand name: Viagra), tadalafil (brand name: Cialis), and vardenafil (brand name: Levitra).

However, if you’re taking certain other medications or have specific cardiovascular diseases, those medications may not be appropriate for you. Other treatments include:

  • urethral suppository medications
  • testosterone supplement therapy
  • penile pumps, implants, or surgery

Getting Started on a Solution

The first — and biggest — hurdle to correcting your erectile dysfunction is getting the courage to talk about it, either with your partner or your doctor. The quicker you do that, the sooner you’ll get to finding the possible cause of impotence and finding the right treatment.

Learn more about erectile dysfunction, and get the solutions you need to get back to the active sex life you want. 

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