It's not uncommon for men to sometimes have difficulty maintaining an erection. However, when it becomes a more regular and severe problem, your doctor may diagnose you as having erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is the medical term for an inability to achieve or maintain an erect penis for sexual function. It's one of the most common sexual problems that men face, and the risk for it increases with age.
There may be various causes for this inability including medications, poor blood flow to the penis, chronic illnesses, fatigue or drinking too much alcohol. There are treatments available, including erectile dysfunction medications and lifestyle changes.
Maintaining an erection requires your brain, nerves, hormones and blood vessels to work together. If any of these suffer any interference, it may lead to an inability to maintain an erection.
Common causes include diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or thyroid conditions, or nervous system disorders, including multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease. Depression may also be a cause.
Some medicines, including high blood pressure and heart medications, sleeping pills, antidepressants and peptic ulcer medications, may be the cause.
There are other possible physical causes like nerve damage from prostate surgery or a spinal cord injury. Erectile dysfunction could also be caused by emotional problems like repeated feelings of failure and doubt or stress, anxiety, fear or anger.
If you have low levels of testosterone, it could both lead to erection problems and reduce your sex drive.
Your age affects your ability to maintain an erection as you get older. The inability, though, can happen to any man regardless of age. While it's often physical causes with older men, emotional problems are more likely to cause erectile dysfunction in younger men.
While it's not always comfortable to talk about sex, your doctor can help determine the cause and suggest ED treatments.
Your doctor may examine your penis, rectum and nervous system and check your blood flow. Treatments will depend on the cause.
There are various ways to treat erectile dysfunction medically, including ED medications taken orally, inserted into the urethra or injected into the penis. This includes penile prostheses called penis implants. Your doctor may also suggest surgery and the use of erectile dysfunction vacuums.
Each treatment comes with risks, including possible side effects and complications. Talk to your doctor and weigh the risks of each treatment option.
Your doctor may also suggest lifestyle changes like smoking and drinking alcohol less frequently and getting more rest and relaxation. Eating a healthy diet and exercising can help with blood circulation.
It is important in a relationship to be able to talk to your partner openly about sex. If you cannot communicate openly, it can lead to anxiety over your sexual performance to the point that it causes erectile dysfunction.
Some couples find success with sex therapy. Ask your doctor to recommend support groups in your area.
It's common to feel frustration and a lack of confidence while you cope with erectile dysfunction. It may take a while for your doctor to find the right treatment. Be patient as your doctor works with you to address your symptoms. For more information about erectile dysfunction and to learn more about common ED medications and view available drug discounts, visit our Erectile Dysfunction condition page.