Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability to get and maintain an erection that is sufficient for satisfactory sexual intercourse. This is due to a build-up of fatty deposits (atheroma) in these arteries in the same way that heart arteries are affected in people with heart disease. ED is usually treatable, most commonly by a tablet taken before sex.
ED is a very common condition, particularly in older men. It is estimated that half of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 will have it to some degree.
Read more about the symptoms of erectile dysfunction
The most common cause of erectile dysfunction for young men is anxiety. This may include concerns about getting someone pregnant, not wanting to appear inexperienced, or worrying about using a condom without embarrassment or losing your erection while putting a condom on.
Common causes of erectile dysfunction for middle aged men may include stress, guilt, or having sex with a new partner after many years of monogamy. Other causes may include diabetes.
Although 70% of men over the age of 70 are still sexually active, erectile dysfunction does get more likely as you get older. This may be linked to the deterioration to the blood vessels that carry blood to the penis, and also to the deterioration of heart or brain arteries.
ED can have a range of causes that can be physical, medicinal & mental (psychological)
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Symptoms of erectile dysfunction
The main symptom of erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get and maintain an erection for satisfactory intercourse. ED should not be confused with ejaculation problems such as premature ejaculation, which is a condition where the process of arousal, orgasm and ejaculation occurs very rapidly. Sometimes ED only occurs in certain situations. For example, you may be able to get an erection during masturbation, or you may find that you sometimes wake up with an erection but you are unable to get an erection with your sexual partner.
In these circumstances, it is likely that the underlying cause of ED is primarily psychological (stress related). However, if you are unable to get an erection under any circumstances, it is likely that the underlying cause is primarily physical.
Seek medical advice
See your GP if ED persists for more than a few weeks. They will assess your general state of health because the condition can be the first sign of more serious health conditions, such as heart disease (when the heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted). Many websites offer treatments for ED but their use is not recommended. The medications that are offered by these sites could be fake and may be dangerous. Even if the medications are genuine, they may not be suitable for you. It is important that you only take medication for ED that your GP has prescribed for you.