Erectile dysfunction (ED) – also called impotence – is the inability to get and maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. The National Institute of Health estimates that ED affects as many as 30 million men in the United States. While it occurs more often in older men, it is not an inevitable part of aging and may be treated, no matter the age or cause.
Common causes of erectile dysfunction can include heart disease, diabetes, psychological factors, high blood pressure, chronic illness, certain medications or advanced age. Smoking, obesity, and alcohol/drug abuse can also put someone at risk for developing erectile dysfunction. Treatments may include lifestyle changes, oral medications, injection therapy, vacuum-assisted devices, external therapies, and implanted devices.
Common symptoms related to erectile dysfunction include:
It is important to tell your doctor if you experience any problems such as those described above. In many cases, these symptoms suggest erectile dysfunction, but they can also be signs of another health condition.
For most men with symptoms of erectile dysfunction, a physical exam and a medical history review is all that is needed in order to recommend a treatment. However, your doctor may suggest additional tests, which could include:
Having periodic trouble keeping an erection is usually nothing to worry about, but failure to do so more than half of the time at any age may indicate a condition that needs treatment.
Treatment for erectile dysfunction often begins with oral medications. There are a variety of effective medications that can successfully treat erectile dysfunction.
Other options that your doctor may recommend may include injections, testosterone replacement therapy, pumps, implants, or blood vessel surgery. If your erectile dysfunction is possibly caused by stress, anxiety or depression, your doctor may suggest psychological counseling as well.