What is erectile dysfunction (ED)?
If you’re having problems getting and/or keeping an erection hard enough for sex, you might have symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED). ED is defined as the persistent inability to achieve or maintain a penile erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance.1 ED can limit your intimacy, affect your self-esteem, and impact your most important relationships. Beyond the physical manifestations, ED can cause emotional distress and may impact your quality of life.2 The important thing to understand is that ED is more common than you may think, and you’re not alone. In fact, more than half of men over the age of 40 suffer from some degree of ED.3
Causes of ED
ED occurs when the blood flow to the penis is interrupted or when the nerves become damaged. There are many different factors that may contribute to this and can include diabetes, heart disease, prostate cancer treatment, depression, anxiety, and the side effects of some medications.2,4 Lifestyle habits like sleep, smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, and diet can also affect the quality of your erection.
How is ED Diagnosed?
If you cannot get an erection more than 50% of the time, it may be time to visit your doctor. A personal history and physical exam can help you and your doctor understand the underlying causes of your ED. Lab tests and other tests may identify a source such as diabetes, coronary artery disease or other conditions that affect the nerves and blood flow to the penis. Understanding what is causing your ED can help you and your doctor determine the treatment options that are right for you.
1. Erectile dysfunction. NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/erectiledysfunction.html. Accessed May 2015.
2. DiMeo PJ. Psychosocial and relationship issues in men with erectile dysfunction. Urol Nurs. 2006 Dec;26(6):442-6.
3. Feldman HA, Goldstein I, Hatzichristou DG, et al. Impotence and its medical and psychosocial correlates: results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J Urol. 1994 Jan;151(1):54-61.
4. Shabsigh R, Lue TF. A Clinician’s Guide to ED Management. New York: Haymarket Media Inc.; 2006.
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