What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when a man often has problems getting or keeping an erection (getting hard). Your penis may not get erect at all or only once in a while. Or you may get erections, but they don't last long enough.
It’s normal for men to have problems getting an erection once in a while—doctors don’t consider it ED unless it happens often
ED can be caused by injuries, psychological problems, nervous system and blood vessel diseases, certain medicines, and surgery
ED is common in men older than 40
ED is usually treatable
Sometimes ED is a sign of more serious health problems.
See a doctor right away if you have ED and:
Feel numbness in the area between your legs (your crotch)
Numbness plus ED could be a sign of a problem with your spinal cord.
Ask your doctor's office how soon you should be seen if you:
Don’t ever get erections in the night or when you wake up in the morning
Get cramping in your leg muscles after exercise that goes away when you rest
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Most of the time, ED is caused by problems with blood flow to your penis or problems with the nerves to your penis.
The most common causes of ED are:
Side effects from prostate surgery
Taking certain medicine (especially medicines for high blood pressure High Blood Pressure Each heart beat pushes blood through your arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body. Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries. Without... read more or depression Depression Depression is feeling too sad or sluggish to do your daily tasks or take part in activities you usually enjoy. It’s normal to feel sad after something sad happens, such as a death or loss—depression... read more )
ED can also be caused by:
Low levels of testosterone
Drugs like alcohol or cocaine
Stress, performance anxiety, depression, or being overtired
Diseases that affect your nerves, for example, strokes Stroke A stroke is a sudden brain problem that happens when a blood vessel in your brain either gets blocked or breaks open and bleeds. Part of your brain stops getting blood. Brain tissue that doesn't... read more , multiple sclerosis Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Multiple sclerosis is a disease that causes multiple scars on nerves in your brain and spinal cord. These scars keep the nerves from working properly. You may have vision problems, strange sensations... read more , and spinal cord injury Injuries of the Spinal Cord and Vertebrae Most spinal cord injuries result from motor vehicle crashes, falls, assaults, and sports injuries. Symptoms, such as loss of sensation, loss of muscle strength, and loss of bowel, bladder, and... read more
What will happen at my doctor visit?
Your doctor will:
Test your blood to measure the level of testosterone and check for diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more or other disorders
How do doctors treat erectile dysfunction?
Treat any health problems you have that might be causing ED
Consider changing any medicine you're taking that’s causing ED
Your doctor may also advise you to:
Drink less alcohol
However, the main treatment for ED is medicine. Usually, doctors prescribe:
Pills, such as sildenafil (Viagra®)
Pills like sildenafil are called phosphodiesterase inhibitors. You take them about an hour before you want to have sex. You shouldn't take these pills if you also take a certain type of heart medicine called nitrates. Nitrates such as nitroglycerin are medicines for chest pain.
If you can't take phosphodiesterase inhibitors, your doctor may:
Prescribe medicine that you inject into your penis before sex
Prescribe medicine that you put into the opening of your penis before sex
Have you use a vacuum device
A vacuum device is a round plastic tube that you place over your penis. It has a hand pump you use to pull out the air. This gives you an erection. After the erection, you'll place a ring or band around the base of your penis to maintain your erection when you take the pump off.
If you have severe ED and none of these treatments work, doctors may:
Do surgery to put a device in your penis
The device may be a solid silicone rod that keeps your penis stiff all the time. Or it may be an inflatable device that you pump up to give yourself an erection.