Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is a common condition estimated to affect roughly 50% of all men aged between 40 and 70. ED is when a man cannot get or keep an erection long enough to have satisfactory sex. It can also refer to a lack of sexual desire (libido).
Now and again you may have trouble getting an erection if you are tired, stressed or have drunk too much alcohol. ED is only a problem when it continues to happen on a regular basis.
Erectile dysfunction may be caused by both psychological and physical factors
ED can be caused by physical factors where the narrowing of the blood vessels leading to the penis reduces blood flow to your penis. This may be due to an underlying health condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In some cases, ED may be a sign of early heart disease so it is important to have it investigated fully by your GP. Other physical factors that can cause ED include changes to your hormone levels, injury or surgery. Some medications also cause erectile dysfunction. If you’re worried that your medication is causing erectile dysfunction, talk to us as there might be other options that you could try. Don’t stop taking a medicine without discussing it with a qualified professional first.
Psychological issues such as stress, anxiety or depression can also affect whether you feel physically able to get and keep an erection. Relationship problems, lack of confidence, sexual issues from the past or experiences of sexual abuse can cause erectile dysfunction. Counselling can help to resolve these issues. See our section on mental health for more information on counselling.
Erectile dysfunction can also be caused by both physical and psychological factors. An example might be, if you have diabetes and find it difficult to get an erection, you may then be worried about this. The two factors together can lead to an episode of ED.
Your treatment will depend on the underlying problem causing erectile dysfunction.
Erectile problems can often be improved by changing to a healthier lifestyle. Some changes that you can make yourself include:
- Lose weight
- Exercise often
- Stop smoking
- Lower stress levels
- Don’t drink too much alcohol
- Don’t take drugs
In some cases, psychosexual counselling may be recommended. In more complex cases, we may recommend a referral to a specialist.
New medications have significantly improved the treatment of erectile dysfunction and we will be happy to discuss these medications with you.
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Irish Heart Foundation – Guide to Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Disease
Patient – Guide to Erectile Dysfunction