ED, also known as impotence, is a man’s inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual activity with penetration (citation 2). Some men are completely unable to get an erection and others may get one that doesn’t remain rigid enough for intercourse. (citation 3)
Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability to gain or maintain an erection hard enough, or for long enough to have sex. While nobody thinks this will affect them, it’s staggeringly common with studies suggesting up to 40% of men will be affected at some point in their lifetime. (citation 1)
Fundamentally, an erection is blood flowing into the penis through a relaxed blood vessel, then becoming trapped by the closing of another vessel, hardening the penis. When the vessel opens, the penis once again softens.
While it is true erectile problems are experienced more commonly in older men, this does not mean that it doesn’t occur in the young. In fact, a study found that ED affected 26% of men under 40 in some way. (citation 5)
There can be a number of causes and factors that contribute to ED. These can be split into two main categories: Physical and Psychological.
Blood Vessel Health
Conditions that lead to a narrowing of blood vessels can lead to ED. These include heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. ED may be the first sign of one of these conditions emerging, this is why we encourage a full GP check-up for all men, especially if you are more experienced at over 40.
Lack of fitness, lack of sleep, poor diet, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can all lead to ED. The first thing any man should try to improve their ED is to try to address these factors.
In addition to blood vessel health, some conditions predispose men to ED. These are Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, low testosterone, and diabetes.
Unfortunately, some medications can affect blood flow and libido. As such, some can cause ED such as medicines for depression, blood pressure, and hair loss. If you are on these medicines, it is important you have a discussion with your GP about your options.
The chances of ED occurring increases with age due to higher rates of medical conditions, medicine usage, and or reduction in sex drive.
Increased stress and anxiety inside and outside the bedroom can result in ED. With the ever-increasing number of men developing anxiety for various work-related and social reasons, anxiety-related ED is increasingly common. Short-term anxiety-related erectile dysfunction should resolve once the anxiety does. However, for those who have long-standing anxiety, counselling and treatment for the underlying condition may be needed to overcome ED.
ED is more prevalent in men who are suffering from depression. It’s important if you feel like you might be depressed that you speak to your doctor about your symptoms. Mental health can greatly affect your ability to get an erection and the underlying depression may need to be treated to improve ED.