Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence is sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual activity. A penile erection is the hydraulic effect of blood entering and being retained in sponge-like bodies within the penis. The process is often initiated as a result of sexual arousal, when signals are transmitted from the brain to nerves in the penis.
Generally, it is okay for men to lose erection at times. It only becomes a problem when the male organ lacks fullness and hardness and erection is not enough to sustain having sex. When things become a little serious and persistent, that is when it can be called as erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence. However, it should be not be confused with lack of appetite for sex, orgasm, or premature ejaculation.
There are at least 10 million men that are dealing with this problem in the US and the numbers are increasing as men age.
Causes of erectile dysfunctionThere are many physical and psychological causes of erectile dysfunction. The most common physical causes are nerve damage and reduced blood flow in the penis. These include:
- Drugs (anti-depressants and nicotine are most common)
- Neurogenic disorders: Stroke and injuries with spinal cord and brain can cause erectile dysfunction when they interfere with the transfer of nerve impulses from the brain down to the penis. Other neurologic disorders can also lead to impotence and these include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis.
- Cavernosal disorders (Peyronie’s disease)
- Psychological causes: performance anxiety, stress, mental disorders, psychological problems, negative feelings.
- Surgery:Just like pelvic trauma, surgical procedures done at the colon, bladder, prostate, and rectum can damage the nerves and veins required for erection as well.
- Aging. It is four times more common in men aged in their 60s than those in their 40s.
- Kidney failure
- Diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS). While these two causes have not been proven they’re likely suspects as they cause issues with both the blood flow and nervous systems.
- At least one paper has suggested that arsenic poisoning from contaminated well water may be a cause in some regions, perhaps by alteration of voltage gated potassium channels.
- Lifestyle: smoking is a key cause of erectile dysfunction.