Erectile dysfunction is a common issue affecting as many as 30 million men worldwide.
The term covers a range of erection problems including not being able to get an erection at all, or for not being able to maintain an erection during sexual activities.
For some men, erectile dysfunction can be a recurring problem, or it may only occur occasionally.
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What is erectile dysfunction (ED)?
It's being unable to get or sustain a prolonged erection for successful sexual intercourse.
Most men will experience erectile dysfunction occasionally, and usually it isn't a cause for concern.
If it's an ongoing issue however, that isn't normal. It can indicate underlying health conditions that might require treatment. It can also be an indicator of cardiovascular disease.
Saying that, whether you have underlying health conditions or not, if your inability to maintain an erection is affecting your mental health, your relationship, or it's causing you stress, it could be time to talk to a doctor.
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What is an erection?
During sexual stimulation, impulses from the brain and surrounding nerves relax the two erection chambers in the penis. These are made of sponge like muscle structures known as corpora cavernosa.
As the muscles relax, messages from the nerves increase blood flow to the penis, filling the spongy tissues. This increasing blood flow creates pressure in the penis, expanding it, straightening it and stiffening it, resulting in an erection.
How often someone with a penis gets an erection depends on multiple factors including age, hormone levels, lifestyle and if the person has an underlying health condition.
Why does erectile dysfunction happen?
Male sexual arousal is a complex process involving (but not limited to) hormones, the brain, stress levels, emotions, muscles, and blood vessels.
If any one of these things has a problem, it can result in erectile dysfunction (ED). And if the person is stressed about their inability to achieve an erection, it can make the situation worse.
Causes for erectile dysfunction can be both physical and psychological issues. For example:
The brain controls our body, it's the central computer that oversees everything we do, both conscious and subconsciously.
It's responsible for triggering the process for causing an erection, and that begins with experiencing sexual excitement.
But so many things can impact sexual feelings, causing erectile dysfunction.
Common psychological causes of erectile dysfunction include:
-mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety
-stress related issues
-worry about sexual performance
Common physical causes of erectile dysfunction include:
-cardiovascular disease such as clogged or blocked blood vessels (heart disease)
-high blood pressure
-medical conditions such as: diabetes / high cholesterol / metabolic syndrome / multiple sclerosis
-prescription drugs for example antidepressants, antihistamines, and medicines to treat high blood pressure
-smoking and tobacco use
-digestive and kidney diseases
-urinary tract infection
-surgery - such as prostate surgery or radiation therapy
-nerve damage injury
-too much alcohol
Symptoms of erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction isn't just the inability to get an erection, it also includes not being able to maintain an erec