Impotence occurs when you are unable to achieve an erection, maintain an erection, or ejaculate on a consistent basis. It’s used interchangeably with erectile dysfunction (ED). Several factors can contribute to the condition, including both emotional and physical disorders.
A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Medicine noted the risk of impotence increases with age. It’s even higher in men who have also been diagnosed with one or more cardiovascular risk factors.
Understanding the most common potential causes can help you identify why you may be experiencing the condition.
The body’s endocrine system produces hormones that regulate metabolism, sexual function, reproduction, mood, and much more.
One of the complications associated with chronic diabetes is nerve damage. This affects penis sensations. Other complications associated with diabetes include impaired blood flow and hormone levels. Both of these factors can contribute to impotence.
Several neurologic conditions can increase the risk for impotence. Nerve conditions affect the brain’s ability to communicate with the reproductive system. This can prevent you from achieving an erection.
Neurological disorders associated with impotence include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- brain or spinal tumors
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- temporal lobe epilepsy
If you’ve had prostate surgery, you can also experience nerve damage, resulting in impotence.
Long-distance bicycle riders can experience temporary impotence. Repeated pressure on the buttocks and genitals can affect the function of the nerves.
Taking certain medications can affect blood flow, which can lead to ED. You should never stop taking a medication without your doctor’s permission, even if it’s known to cause impotence.
Examples of medications known to cause impotence include:
- alpha-adrenergic blockers, including tamsulosin (Flomax)
- beta-blockers, such as carvedilol (Coreg) and metoprolol (Lopressor)
- cancer chemotherapy medications, such as cimetidine (Tagamet)
- central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and codeine
- CNS stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines
- diuretics, such as furosemide (Lasix) and spironolactone (Aldactone)
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil)
- synthetic hormones, including as leuprolide (Eligard)
To achieve an erection, you must first go through what’s known as an excitement phase. This phase can be an emotional response. If you have an emotional disorder, it’ll affect your ability to become sexually excited.
Performance anxiety can also cause impotence. If you haven’t been able to achieve an erection in the past, you may fear you won’t be able to achieve an erection in the future.
You may also find that you can’t achieve an erection with a certain partner. If you’ve been diagnosed with ED related to performance anxiety, you may be able to have full erections when masturbating or when sleeping, but unable to maintain an erection during intercourse.
Abuse of drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines can also cause impotence. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can affect your ability to achieve or maintain an erection as well. See your doctor if you suspect that you may have a substance abuse problem.
Treatments are available for impotence, including medical interventions, natural remedies, and lifestyle changes.
There are a variety of medical interventions that can be used to treat impotence. Prescription treatments for impotence include:
- alprostadil (Caverject, Edex, MUSE), which is available as an injection or as a suppository
- avanafil (Stendra)
- sildenafil (Viagra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- vardenafil (Staxyn, Levitra)
- testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)
You may also want to consider vascular surgery (to improve blood flow in the penis) or penile implant surgery.
If you want to avoid prescription medication, there are a variety of natural remedies known to help treat impotence. Before you use any natural remedies, make sure you consult your doctor first.
Some alternative remedies for impotence include:
Penis pumps are another option if you’re looking for noninvasive, nondrug treatments. They may be most effective if you have moderate ED.
Whether your impotence has a physical or an emotional cause, there are many cases where lifestyle changes can reduce problems with ED.
According to the Mayo Clinic, these lifestyle and behavioral changes include:
- smoking and drinking less
- strengthening communication in a romantic relationship
- exercising more and following a healthy diet
- reducing anxiety
You may also want to consider counseling to address any possible psychological causes.
Impotence has a variety of causes. However, there are still measures you can take to help prevent it.
Possible prevention methods include:
- taking part in physical exercise, which decreases the risk for impotence
- avoiding smoking, drugs, or alcohol abuse
- getting enough sleep
- following a healthy diet
- reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
IMPOTENCE AND AGE Although aging is often associated with erectile dysfunction (ED), growing older isn’t necessarily one of the biggest contributing causes of impotence. ED isn’t considered a natural part of aging. Aging is just a risk factor. Some men never experience impotence.
Impotence can change your life and affect your self-esteem.
Though ED can have a negative effect on your sex life, it’s ultimately a treatable condition. Many interventions exist that can help you regain your sexual function, including natural remedies, medications, and lifestyle changes.
Because impotence can signal an underlying health problem, make an appointment with your doctor if it becomes a consistent problem, even if you think it’s just stress.