Erectile Dysfunction (ED) occurs when a man has repeated problems sustaining an erection. Without treatment, ED can make sexual intercourse difficult. The condition is sometimes called impotence.
ED becomes more common as men age, but it is not a part of aging. At age 40, about 5% of men experience ED. At age 65, this number increases to between 15% and 25%. ED can be treated at any age.
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction:
1. Chronic Diseases: The link between chronic disease and ED is most striking for diabetes. Other conditions that may cause ED include cardiovascular disease and neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis.
a. Diabetes: Chronic high levels of blood sugar associated with diabetes mellitus often damage small blood vessels and nerves throughout the body, which can impair nerve impulses and blood flow necessary for erection. Nearly one of two diabetic men experiences ED. Erectile dysfunction tends to develop 10-15 years earlier in diabetic men than among non-diabetic men.
b. Neurological Conditions: Spinal cord and brain injuries (e.g. stroke) and other nerve disorders like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease can cause impotence when they interrupt the transfer of nerve impulses from the brain to the penis.
c. Cardiovascular diseases: Atherosclerosis, which leads to the narrowing and hardening of arteries that reduces blood flow. Men with more severe coronary artery atherosclerosis also tend to have more erectile dysfunction (as it affects arteries throughout the body) than men with mild or no coronary artery atherosclerosis. People with essential hypertension also have an increased risk of developing erectile dysfunction.
2. Lifestyle: Lifestyle choices that impair blood circulation can contribute to ED. Smoking, excessive drinking, and drug abuse may damage the blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the penis. Smoking makes men with atherosclerosis particularly vulnerable to ED. Being overweight and getting too little exercise are also other possible risk factors.
3. Surgery: Surgery, including treatments for prostate or bladder cancer, can sometimes damage nerves and blood vessels near the penis. In some cases, surgery causes permanent nerve damage and in others it causes temporary ED that improves on its own after 6 to 18 months.
4. Medication: ED may be a side effect of medication, including certain blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, tranquilizers, and antihistamines.
5. Psychological: ED is mainly due to physical factors; psychological factors may be seen in 10% to 20% of men with ED. Stress, depression, poor self-esteem, and performance anxiety can short-circuit the process that leads to an erection. These factors can also make the problem worse in men whose ED is due to something physical.
If you suffer from ED, do consult a doctor.