When men become sexually aroused, hormones, muscles, nerves, and
blood vessels all work with one another to create an erection. Nerve signals,
sent from the brain to the penis, stimulate muscles to relax. This, in turn,
allows blood to flow to the tissue in the penis. Once the blood fills the penis
and an erection is achieved, the blood vessels to the penis close off so that
the erection is maintained. Following sexual arousal, the veins to the penis
again open up, allowing the blood to leave.
At some point in a man’s life, he may have difficulty achieving
or maintaining an erection. Erection problems occur when you can’t achieve or
maintain an erection that’s firm enough to have sexual intercourse. For most
men, this problem occurs occasionally and isn’t a serious issue. However, if
you are unable to achieve an erection one-quarter of the time or more, you may
have a health problem that requires medical attention. Erection problems are
also known as:
- erectile dysfunction (ED)
- sexual dysfunction
What Are the Common Causes of Erection Problems?
The causes of ED can be physical, psychological, or a combination of
the two. Physical causes of ED are more common in older men. They occur because
of disorders that can affect the nerves and blood vessels responsible for
causing an erection.
Physical causes of erectile problems include:
- heart disease
- hardening of the arteries
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- Parkinson’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
- Peyronie’s disease
- certain medications, including diuretics, beta
blockers, muscle relaxers, or antidepressants
- alcoholism or substance abuse
- long-term tobacco use
- trauma or injury to the spinal cord or genital
- congenital genitalia problems
- liver or kidney disease
- treatment for prostate problems
Erection problems can also be due to issues of the mind. Emotional
issues can distract a man of any age from becoming aroused, and include:
- worry over not being able to achieve or maintain
- prolonged emotional distress related to
economic, professional, or social issues
- relationship conflicts
Erection Problems in Young Men
Men ages 20 to 30 may experience ED as well. The numbers suggest more
occurrences of ED in young men than previously reported. The Journal of Sexual Medicine reports
that 26 percent of men ages 17 to 40 experience trouble having an erection. These
cases range from moderate to severe.
Research says erection
problems in young men have more to do with their lifestyle and psychological
climate than a physical problem. Younger men were found to use more tobacco,
alcohol, and drugs than older men. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service suggests that erection problems in young men often
stem from anxiety.
How Are Erection Problems Diagnosed?
To accurately find the cause of your erection problems, your doctor
may also order tests that include:
- complete blood count (CBC), which is a set of
blood tests that checks for low red blood cell count
- hormone profile, which measures the levels of
sex hormones (testosterone and prolactin)
- nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT), which
measures function of your erection during sleep
- duplex ultrasound, which uses high-frequency
sound waves to take pictures of the body’s tissues
- urinalysis, which measure protein and
testosterone levels in the urine
Once your doctor determines the cause of your erection problem, they
will provide appropriate treatment.
What Are the Potential Complications?
The complications that come
with erection problems are significant and can impact your quality of life. If
you experience erection problems, you may also experience:
- stress or anxiety
- low self-esteem
- relationship problems
- dissatisfaction with your sex life
How Can You Treat Erection Problems?
According to American Family
Physician, severity of ED is graded on a three-point scale:
mild, moderate, and complete. The first step to treating your ED is identifying
where you fall on this scale. Additionally, the causes of ED typically
pinpoints at least one or more phases of male sexual response. These include:
desire, arousal, orgasm, and relaxation. A problem in one or more of these may
be the source of the problem.
The good news is once the severity and cause of the disorder is found,
ED becomes easy to treat.
Options for treating erection issues may include:
- medications injected into the penis
- medication injected into the urethra
- medications taken by mouth
- vacuum devices
Many of the physical causes of erection problems are related to
lifestyle choices. You may want to consider the following changes:
- stopping tobacco use
- drinking less alcohol
- getting plenty of rest
- eating a healthy diet
- exercising regularly
- talking with your partner about sexual issues
If changes in your lifestyle don’t reduce your symptoms, contact your
doctor to find the root cause of the ED. Your doctor will examine your penis,
rectum, and prostate as well as your nervous system function. The doctor will
also ask you about current health problems and when your symptoms began.
When Should You Call Your Doctor?
If you develop erection problems that get worse over time, you should
call your doctor. You should also call your doctor if erection problems develop
or worsen after injury or prostate surgery. If you experience ED along with
lower back pain or stomach pain, make an appointment with your doctor.
You should also talk to your doctor if you believe a new medication is
causing a problem. Medication should be taken until a doctor says otherwise.
How Can You Prevent Erection Problems?
To prevent erection problems, engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors.
Some of these include:
- maintaining a healthy diet
- keeping a balanced well
- exercising regular
ED is caused by a lack of blood flow. Circulatory health becomes key
in prevention. A common way to improve blood flow is through exercise. Some
cardio-based exercises include: running, biking, swimming, and aerobics.
A proper diet that avoids fats, excess sugar, and high salt counts is
important as well.
Chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, can be a
cause of erection problems. Another cause may be from the medications
prescribed to you. You should consult your physician for more methods of
prevention if these diseases are present.
A history of mental health issues or problems with alcohol or drugs
may call for treatment. ED has been known to also be a product of stress or
It is important to note that
ED is a common issue and can happen in men of all ages. Although ED can be a
difficult experience, there are effective treatments available. Follow some of
the warning signs of a recurring problem. Visit your doctor if ED has become a
frequent trouble for you. Your doctor can walk you through your potential