Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition that makes it difficult to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex. While it’s more common in older men, it also affects a sizable percentage of younger men.
ED in younger men may be caused by or related to an underlying physical or psychological condition. Being proactive about getting a diagnosis and starting treatment, if necessary, is a wise move at any age.
In this article, we’ll explore why ED can happen in your 30s and what you can do about it.
It’s possible to experience mild, occasional, or complete erectile dysfunction at any age. While a lot of research has been done on the topic, estimates of how many men experience ED vary.
While dated, the
The variation among studies may be due to a number of factors, such as differences among the screening tools and questionnaires used by researchers. What research does agree on, however, is that ED risk tends to increase with age.
One of the main reasons ED risk increases with age is because erectile function depends on bodily systems that tend to change with age.
For example, an enlarged prostate is common among older men and is occasionally a contributor to ED and ejaculation problems. As the prostate gets bigger, it can squeeze the urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen.
Advancing age is also associated with lower levels of testosterone, an important hormone in male sexual function, and poorer circulation, which can affect sexual function and most aspects of physical health.
Among younger men, the causes of ED are often related to lifestyle and general health. Some of these factors include:
- Obesity. Obesity increases the risk of conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and high cholesterol. Each of these conditions can cause ED.
- Smoking. Smoking can damage blood vessels, making it difficult to get an erection.
- Heavy alcohol use. Alcohol can
reduce blood flowto the penis, causing ED.
- Sedentary lifestyle. A
2012 studyfound that among men under 40, those who were sedentary were more likely to experience ED than those who were active.
Other physical causes can include high blood pressure and hormonal disorders such as low testosterone.
ED can also be caused by psychological or emotional issues, such as:
- relationship problems
These issues can affect your hormones and nervous system, which play very important roles in achieving and maintaining an erection.
Performance anxiety can also contribute to ED, especially if you’ve experienced ED previously and are worried about it happening again.
Regardless of the cause, ED is often treatable with the help of a doctor and some healthy lifestyle changes.
If you experience ED occasionally or frequently, let your doctor know. The conversation may cover some very personal territory, including:
- your sexual history
- your recent sexual activity
- any relationship problems you may be having
- questions about your physical and mental health
You may be advised to consult a urologist, who specializes in male and female urinary tract health and male reproductive health.
Your doctor will likely ask you to describe your symptoms and do a physical exam. Then, they’ll review your treatment options.
First-line treatments for ED include oral medications, such as sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis). In the United States, these medications are available only by prescription and may not be covered by insurance.
If available, taking a generic form of an ED medication may help bring down the cost.
Oral medications work by encouraging blood flow to the penis in response to sexual stimulation. They may cause side effects. Your doctor may treat you for an underlying health condition and suggest lifestyle changes before prescribing oral medications.
If you don’t want to take a prescription medication, you may want to try an over-the-counter (OTC) treatment. Several herbal supplements, such as L-arginine and yohimbe, may be helpful, though they aren’t approved by the FDA.
If you decide to go this route, be sure to talk to your doctor first. They can help you figure out whether there’s an underlying condition causing ED, and if OTC treatments are safe for you.
Lifestyle changes may also improve sexual function, especially if you’re younger. For example, your doctor may suggest the following:
- Exercise daily.
- Quit smoking.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Destress with the help of activities like meditation or yoga.
Other treatment options
In some cases, your doctor may suggest different types of treatment. These can include:
- injection therapy
- testosterone replacement therapy
- penis pumps to trigger erections
- penis implants that can be used to control the timing of your erection
ED can be a difficult and emotional topic to discuss with a partner. Being calm and matter-of-fact about it may help you both deal with it in a proactive and positive way. As with any relationship challenge, one key to getting through it is healthy communication.
Be open and honest about how you’re feeling, and invite your partner to do the same. Leave space for your partner to ask any questions, and don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned about ED. This can help alleviate any concerns or misconceptions about the cause of ED.
Erectile dysfunction can be disruptive, especially when it occurs in young men. And because ED has so many potential causes, it can sometimes take a little detective work to find its origin and develop an effective treatment plan.
Be patient and ask for patience from your partner. Remember that ED is a common condition, and it’s usually treatable. Talk with your doctor to figure out the best treatment plan for you.