Erectile dysfunction is a common problem. It affects approximately 40 percent of men by age 40, and nearly 70 percent of men by the time they reach the age of 70. But what causes ED? Is it inevitable? Keep reading to learn more about the risk factors and how you can reduce your chances for ED.
Here are ED risk factors:
- Physical conditions and diseases:
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- metabolic syndrome
- multiple sclerosis surgeries or injuries to the pelvis
- Emotional or psychological conditions:
- relationship problems
- worries or fear of an ED relapse
- other health conditions
- Lifestyle causes:
- use of prescription drugs, both prescribed to you or not
- tobacco use
- alcohol use
- other substance abuse
Medications and drugs can affect your erectile health. This includes over-the-counter, prescription, and illegal or recreational drugs.
Prescription medications that may cause ED include:
- chemotherapy drugs
- heart disease medication
- high blood pressure medicines and diuretics
- hormonal treatments
- psychiatric medications
If you’re taking a prescription medication and begin experiencing ED, speak with your doctor. Your doctor can help you weigh the benefits and risks of your current medication. Your doctor may also be able to recommend alternative medications.
All recreational drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, are essentially chemicals. These chemicals, once in your body, can cause serious damage. Drugs can greatly damage blood vessels, even in your pelvis and around your genitals. If the blood vessels are damaged, blood flow to your penis will be impaired. That means your genitals may not perform properly when you’re aroused. As a result, you will likely experience ED.
Recreational medications and substances that can cause ED symptoms include:
Men with alcohol abuse issues often experience ED. In fact, one study found that 72 percent of men with alcohol dependence issues also had ED. The more a person with alcohol dependence drinks, the more severe their ED is likely to be.
However, you don’t have to have a chronic problem with alcohol to experience ED problems. Occasional drinking can also cause symptoms of ED. That’s because alcohol greatly affects all of the body parts responsible for creating an erection during sexual activity.
Alcohol and the Testicles
Alcohol abuse damages the testicles. Over time, this damage will cause the testicles to shrink and the quality of sperm will suffer greatly.
Alcohol and the Prostate Gland
Alcohol abuse increases your risk of an infection in the prostate gland, or prostatitis. In addition to ED issues, you may experience pain, swelling, and difficulty urinating.
Alcohol and Hormones
Alcohol lowers hormones, including testosterone. It also damages cells in the testes and gonads. Even mild damage may prevent you from achieving or maintaining an erection. Heavy drinking over long periods of time can even lead to cell death. Any damage to cells increases your risk for ED.
The use of ED medications among young men, even those without a diagnosed ED problem, has been increasing over the last few years. Some men take these medications illegally because they are uncomfortable talking with their doctor about their ED issues. They would rather self-treat. Others take it because they’re curious if these medicines can impact or enhance a sexual encounter.
That is risky and potentially dangerous. Taking ED medications without a prescription presents four serious problems. These include:
- Having a bad reaction. ED medications, like any prescription medications, are carefully controlled doses of chemicals. You could accidentally mix medications that could lead to a serious problem, possibly even death. You might also be allergic to one of the chemicals or have a dangerous reaction. Your doctor can inform you of any potential dangerous mixes. It’s important you speak with them about your ED issues and receive proper medical consultation before taking any medication.
- Getting counterfeit medication. If you’re obtaining ED medications from anywhere besides a pharmacy, you risk purchasing dangerous medications. Medicines that are not dispensed by a licensed pharmacy may be old or contain no active ingredient. It may even be the wrong medicine entirely.
- Becoming psychologically dependent on the pills. If you begin taking ED medicine and experience improved sexual function, you may become dependent on the medicine to give you the confidence to have sexual intercourse. You may begin to think that without it, you will not be able to achieve an erection. This will ultimately lower your self-confidence and increase your sexual anxiety. That will likely increase your ED issues.
- Facing legal repercussions. Possessing prescription medications that are not prescribed to you is illegal. If you are caught, you may face fines, fees, or even jail time.
Before trying supplements or medication not prescribed for you, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can help you figure out what’s causing your ED. If the causes are related to any legal or illegal substances, they can also help you find ways to quit. Not only are you affecting your sexual health, you could be greatly damaging your body in many other ways.
A discussion between you and your doctor should be open and honest. Explain what you’ve been taking, what you’ve been experiencing, and how it has been affecting you. Together, you can work through the situation, find the help you need, and hopefully return to your normal, healthy sexual function.