Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a condition wherein the penis cannot keep a firm erection for sex and other sexual activities. Experiencing it isn’t uncommon, and most men are having difficulty having an erection from time to time. It is not necessarily a cause of concern; however, it can become a big issue when sexual performance is affected, and it causes stress to the male. It can further affect their emotional well-being, cause relationship problems with their partner, and lowers their self-confidence. Also, having erectile dysfunction may be a sign of an underlying health condition such as heart disease.
It may be embarrassing to consult a doctor regarding erectile dysfunction. However, if it keeps on giving stress and affects relationships, then maybe it is time to man up and book an appointment with a doctor.
This article will discuss the causes and symptoms of erectile dysfunction. If you are experiencing difficulties getting an erection, see for yourself the signs mentioned in this article that might be similar to yours. Upon learning the symptoms and what could have caused it, it is best to consult with a doctor if it constantly gives a negative impact on your life.
Causes of erectile dysfunction
Before we discuss the causes of erectile dysfunction, let us first discuss what causes an erection typically. It is important to be introduced to this topic because of some problems during the erection process.
The erection of the penis is a result of increased blood flow in it. This blood flow is triggered or stimulated by either sexual thoughts or direct contact with the penis. This increased blood flow is made possible when the muscles in the penis are relaxed as a result of getting sexually excited. The relaxation of the penile muscles allows the blood to flow on the penile arteries, which then fills two chambers inside the penis. When these chambers are filled with blood, the penis erects.
After some time, the muscles contract, and the accumulated blood in the two chambers flows out through the penile veins. It is when the erection ends.
It can be said that to have an erection, it involves various components, including the brain, hormones, nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and emotions. Erectile dysfunction may occur when this process has been affected due to a variety of causes. Usually, the erectile function can be affected due to problems in the blood flow, nerve supply, and hormones.
The causes of erectile dysfunction may be categorized as either physical or psychological, with the former being accounted for more than 90% of the cases. Likewise, it may be a combination of both, such as when the physical causes affect the male’s mental well-being in the form of stress or anxiety. It can worsen the condition.
Here are the physical causes of erectile dysfunction:
- Heart disease
- Atherosclerosis or the clogging of the arteries in the penis affecting the blood flow to the penis.
- Sleep disorders
- Metabolic syndrome
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peyronie’s disease, a condition wherein a scar tissue is developed inside the penis
- Other structural or anatomical disorders of the penis
- Hormonal disorders which include thyroid problems and low testosterone levels
- Surgical complications or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord
- Treatments for prostate cancer and other prostate disorders
- Radiation therapy to the pelvic region
- Taking certain prescription medications
- Tobacco use
- Substance abuse
With the given causes, it can be concluded that erectile dysfunction may result from an underlying medical condition. That is why when you suspect that you have it, even if it is embarrassing, it would be wise to consult the doctor. Also, some of these physical causes are a result of lifestyle. It would be wise to stop smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse before it gets worse. Not only would it cause you erectile dysfunction, but there are also other medical conditions resulting from the abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances.
Other physical causes may be attributed to some treatments and medications. Consult your doctor if you suspect that your treatment plan is causing you erectile dysfunction. The same thing goes for the medications that you are taking. Here are some of the prescription medications that can cause erectile dysfunction.
- Digoxin and other heart medications
- Medications for high blood pressure
- Sleeping pills, amphetamines, and other medications that act on the central nervous system
- Medications for anxiety
- Antidepressants which include monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants.
- Opioid painkillers
- Chemotherapeutic agents and some other medications for cancer
- Medications for prostate treatment
- Hormone drugs
- Peptic ulcer medication cimetidine
Take note that if your medication is on this list, do not stop taking them or look for other alternatives. Consult with your doctor first.
On the other hand, erectile dysfunction may also be a result of psychological causes. The brain plays a major role in triggering a series of events that leads to an erection, which mostly begins with sexual excitement.
When the sexual excitement is affected, it may be a psychological factor that causes erectile dysfunction. These factors include:
- Relationship problems
- Fear of intimacy
Erectile dysfunction due to psychological causes occurs less commonly. The factors mentioned above range from treatable mental health illnesses to normal emotional states. The reason is that it is important to take care of our mental healths’ well-being, just like how we care for our physical health.
With the given causes of erectile dysfunction, both physical and psychological, it can be concluded that there are a variety of risk factors that increase the chances of having this condition. The following are the risk factors that summarize the given physical and psychological causes.
- Being overweight
- Having heart conditions
- Tobacco, alcohol, and drug use
- Taking prescription medications
- Certain medical treatments
- Psychological conditions
- Having injuries in the pelvic area
While most of the risk factors are about having problems in the blood flow and other medical conditions, there is still one important factor to consider, aging. As you get older, maintaining an erection becomes difficult. Studies also suggest that erectile dysfunction is more common to older men, especially in the 50s. It is the age where the sexual function decreases, which can be attributed to erections that take longer to get firm, and might not get firm as it used to be.
However, this does not mean that the younger males are not at risk of having erectile dysfunction. A study reveals that even men under the age of 40 can develop erectile dysfunction, and the cases were found to have a strong connection with tobacco, alcohol, and drug use. It suggests that the lifestyle of the male can cause him to have erectile dysfunction. This can be prevented by having lifestyle changes and getting healthier to obtain better sexual function.
Myths About The Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction
The given physical and psychological causes of erectile dysfunction are proven to be genuine by health experts. However, you may be wondering and thinking that the list may be lacking. You might be thinking of some causes that you have overheard on some comments of other people. Now, let us discuss some of the myths associated with erectile dysfunction and find out if there is some truth to it or just some hoax.
Myth No. 1: You can’t escape having erectile dysfunction when you get older.
Although it was said that older men are at more risk of having it, this does not mean that everyone will have it in their senior years. Even if the body undergoes several physical changes as we age, you can still enjoy sex when you are older. Many older men can still successfully have firm erections and can keep it while having sexual activities.
Myth No. 2: Cycling
If you enjoy cycling as a hobby, you may have heard that it can cause erectile dysfunction. Some researchers have been linking long hours of cycling as an increased risk of having it. It was also suggested that cycling might result in other men’s health issues, such as infertility and prostate cancer. Luckily, according to a recent UK health study published in the Journal of Men’s health, it was revealed that there is no link between erectile dysfunction and riding a bike. However, it does conclude that long hours of cycling increase the risk of having prostate cancer.
Myth No. 3: Weightlifting can cause erectile dysfunction
Another exercise that is attributed to erectile dysfunction is weightlifting. However, there is no concrete evidence that supports this claim. On the contrary, weightlifting and other forms of exercise can help a male boost his testosterone levels, which prevent and lower the risk of contracting erectile dysfunction. Regular exercise can also help prevent other medical conditions. It can be said that there is more merit in exercising than not exercising at all. However, excessive exercising can also cause other physical conditions such as strains, bruises, and inflammations, so remember to keep things in moderation. It may affect your sexual activities if you gain physical injuries while getting fit.
Myth No. 4: If you have prostate cancer or other prostate diseases, you also have erectile dysfunction.
It has some half-truth with it. Although prostate cancer and other prostate diseases do not directly cause erectile dysfunction, however, the treatment methods and the medications that come with them are the ones that cause it. This includes prostate surgery and radiation therapy.
Myth No. 5: You are no longer attracted to your partner if you have erectile dysfunction
Psychologically speaking, it may be one factor, but it is far more likely because of something else. It can be a result of underlying medical conditions that affect the man’s sex drive.
Myth No. 6: Tight underwear can cause erectile dysfunction
You might also hear that it should not be too tight when choosing underwear since it can cause erectile dysfunction. However, there is no truth to this. No study has been able to prove a link between erectile dysfunction and tight underwear. Yet, it is revealed that some evidence links the use of tight underwear to reduced fertility. The sperm likes to be kept more relaxed, and the increased temperature due to wearing tight underwear can affect sperm production.
The following are symptoms of erectile dysfunction that you should be aware of.
- Persistent trouble getting an erection
- Persistent trouble keeping an erection, especially during sexual activities
- Premature ejaculation
- Delayed ejaculation
- Anorgasmia or the inability to achieve orgasm after enough stimulation
There are also emotional symptoms which include
- Reduced sexual desire and interest
- Feeling embarrassed or ashamed to engage in sexual activities
It is wise to speak with a doctor when you are experiencing these symptoms. It may be embarrassing, but if it already lasted for more than 3 months, then it is a medical concern. The doctor may help you manage this condition as well as find out if it is caused by an underlying medical condition such as heart disease.
Erectile dysfunction also comes with complications, which are mainly about psychological problems. As mentioned earlier, the cause can be physical or psychological, with the former being accounted for more than 90% of the cases. However, complications may also arise that mostly affects the mental health and well-being of the male. These complications include:
- Stress or anxiety
- Lowered self-confidence
- Relationship problems
- The inability to get your partner pregnant
- Unsatisfactory sex life
Given the list of possible causes and symptoms of erectile dysfunction, it will be wise to consult with a doctor when you notice that there is something wrong. It may be embarrassing to consult the doctor with this condition, but health must always be a priority. However, think of your health and the people around you which may be affected before thinking about embarrassment. Before this condition becomes complicated and greatly affects your everyday life, especially your sexual activities, be brave to seek help.