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Can Impotence Occur After Prostate Surgery?

Consider your options

Key points

  1. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to become sexually aroused and have an erection.
  2. Impotence is a known complication of prostate surgery.
  3. Most men regain the ability to have sexual intercourse within two years of prostate surgery.

If you’re undergoing prostate surgery, you may be concerned about how it will affect your sexual function. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to become sexually aroused and have an erection.

The condition has many complex causes. It can be caused by a physical problem, an emotional issue, or both. Regardless of the cause, ED can affect both you and your partner.

What causes impotence?

Many body systems play a role in sexual arousal. These include:

  • nerves
  • blood vessels
  • muscles
  • reproductive organs (hormones)
  • the brain (neurologic and emotional)

Physical causes

The Mayo Clinic identifies 16 common physical causes of ED. These include diseases such as:

Surgical causes

Surgery that affects your pelvic area, such as prostate surgery, is another potential physical cause of ED.

Contributing causes

Other issues that can contribute to ED include:

  • certain medications
  • smoking
  • drinking too much alcohol

Risk factors

According to the James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute at Johns Hopkins, ED is a “known potential complication” of surgery for prostate cancer.

Fortunately, practicing certain techniques can help you recover your ability to have an erection after prostate surgery.

Men rarely recover complete function naturally soon after surgery. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t fully functioning immediately. Allow your body time to heal.

Regaining function

The New York University Langone Medical Center states that almost all men recovering from prostate surgery develop temporary erectile dysfunction. However, the majority of men improve over time.

Improvement over time

Some studies suggest that sexual function may continue to improve several years after prostate surgery.

Research published in the Journal of Urology found that 60 percent of men were able to have sexual intercourse within two years of having prostate surgery.

This was true even without taking sexual performance enhancement drugs, such as Viagra or Cialis.

Continued improvement

Another study published in the Journal of Urology found that erectile function continued to improve up to four years after prostate surgery.

Half of those studied reported an improvement in their ability to get an erection between two and four years after surgery. 

Twenty percent of men in the study found that their level of improvement was “moderate” to “marked.”

The takeaway

Maintaining sexual function is important to the quality of life of all men.

Prostate surgery can trigger ED, particularly in the first year after surgery. However, sexual function improves over time for most men.

Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about prostate surgery. They can help you weigh the risks and benefits.

Read This Next

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