Contributed by: Abshar Faheem


What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction or ED is a condition in which a man often finds it difficult to maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse. In other words, erectile dysfunction is defined as a condition in which men feel some difficulty with their penis becoming hard or staying firm. Occasional erectile dysfunction is common and several men may experience it when they are stressed. 

However, frequent ED may be a warning sign of serious health concerns. The main symptoms of erectile dysfunction include trouble getting an erection, reduced interest in sex, and difficulty in maintaining an erection during sexual activities. There are a few sexual disorders related to ED, which include premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, and anorgasmia (inability to orgasm).

As per the general biological process, the penis is erected when increased blood flow gets to the organ. Blood flow into the penis can occur due to direct contact with the penis or sexual thoughts. Muscles in the penis get to relax when a man feels sexually excited. It causes increased blood flow through penile arteries and also loads the chambers with blood inside the penis. As soon as chambers load with blood, the penis becomes hard and rigid. When the muscles in the penis contract, the loaded blood in the penis and its chambers come out through penile veins and this process ends the erection. 

The normal erectile process can be affected due to problems in blood flow, nerve supply, and hormones. Several men with erectile dysfunction are reluctant to share it with their healthcare provider because they feel embarrassed and shy. However, the treatment of ED is available in the market so talking openly with a healthcare provider may be the first step to get help and the best treatment can be recommended.


What causes erectile dysfunction?

The causes of erectile dysfunction can be physical or organic, medication side effects, and psychological. Here are some of the key conditions that can cause erectile dysfunction. 


Physical causes

90 percent of erectile dysfunction occurs due to physical causes. The following list includes the most physical or organic causes of erectile dysfunction 


  • Heart diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Narrowing blood vessels
  • Kidney disease
  • Increased age or being over age 50
  • High blood pressure or hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity 
  • Lacking exercise
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Hormonal disorders including testosterone deficiency
  • Radiation therapy 
  • Treatment of prostate cancer
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Illegal substance abuse including cocaine
  • Atherosclerosis


Medicinal causes

Medications may also cause erectile dysfunction however, anyone should consult with a doctor before stopping or changing the medications. Those include


  • Medicines to manage high blood pressure
  • Heart disease medication
  • Anxiety treatments
  • Antidepressants
  • cancer medication
  • Prostate treatment drugs
  • Hormone drugs
  • Medication including sleeping pills


Emotional causes

Satisfying sexual intercourse needs the body and mind to work together. However, if there are emotional and relationship problems between the couple, it can cause or worsen the ED. Psychological causes of ED including


  • Guilt
  • Stress at home or work
  • Stress from social, cultural, and religious conflicts
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Depression
  • Severe anxiety
  • Relationship problems
  • Worry about sex performance
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD


Erectile dysfunction can occur due to one of these factors or a combination of them. Therefore, it is imperative to talk with your doctor so that they can find out any underlying medical condition that causes erectile dysfunction. A proper diagnosis can help you to treat any underlying medical condition and solve the sexual complexities.


Diagnosis and treatment of erectile dysfunction

To diagnose erectile dysfunction, your doctor or healthcare provider may do a physical exam (including blood pressure check, penis, and testicles exam, and rectal exam) and can ask questions regarding your symptoms, physiological, health, and sexual history. They may also recommend other tests that can help to diagnose ED including ultrasound, injection test, urine test, blood test, and nocturnal penile tumescence or NPT test. 

These tests can help doctors to do better treatment and find out if any underlying condition causes ED. The treatment of ED includes medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both. They can also recommend testosterone therapy if the level of testosterone hormone is low in the body. 

Certain exercises can help men with ED such as Kegal exercise, aerobic exercise, and yoga. ED is caused due to problems in blood vessels. Maintaining healthy blood vessels can be achieved by adapting to a specific lifestyle such as eating a healthy diet.

Some foods are recommended that may help reduce the risk of developing ED including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, cocoa, and watermelon. Avoiding red meat, full-fat dairy products, processed sugars, and alcohol may also help to prevent the risk of ED.


The bottom line

Erectile dysfunction can be caused due to any reason whether it is an underlying condition or psychological. If you find symptoms of erectile dysfunction, consult with your doctor immediately. An underlying condition can lead to a serious health issue therefore early diagnosis and treatment may help in successful treatment.  In addition, adopting a healthy lifestyle not only benefits your blood vessels but also improves your overall general health. We hope you find this article helpful.


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