Can Impotence Occur After Prostate Surgery?

Written by The Healthline Editorial Team | Published on February 10, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George T. Krucik, MD, MBA on February 10, 2014

Know your risks before making the decision to have surgery.

Consider Your Options

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

The condition has many complex causes, both physical and mental. Whatever the cause, it can affect you and your partner alike.

What Causes Impotence?

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

  • nerves
  • blood vessels
  • muscles
  • hormones
  • brain
  • emotions

A physical problem, an emotional issue, or both can cause impotence, or ED.

Physical Causes of ED

The Mayo Clinic identifies 16 common physical causes of ED. These include diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The use of certain medications, smoking, or drinking too much alcohol can also contribute to ED.

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

Potential Risk

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 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 NYU Langone Medical Center states that it can take most men up to a year after prostate surgery to have an erection. The timetable is usually between three and 12 months post-surgery.

Some men don’t regain the ability to perform sexual penetration up to two years after prostate surgery. If this is the case for you, take it one step at a time until you’re recovered.

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 following 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.

Over 50 percent 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.”

Get the Facts

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. But, 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.

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