Erectile dysfunction (ED) is one of the most common sexual problems and affects nearly 50% of all men over the age of 40 at some stage. This problem becomes even more common and more severe as men grow older. There are many causes of ED and it is thought that 70% of cases have physical causes and 30% psychological causes although often there are both physical and psychological reasons for the condition.
The shaft of the penis has two chambers that fill up with blood during sexual arousal. Sexual thoughts are transmitted though the nerves to the genitals. These nerves cause the relaxing of the muscle cells in the walls of the blood vessels entering the penis. The increased blood flow fills up the two chambers in the shaft of the penis forming an erection. Therefore any condition or disease which affects either the blood flow to the penis or the nerves to the genital area can cause erectile dysfunction.
Such conditions or diseases are:
Physical Health problems such as:
- Diabetes can be the cause of ED in more than 50% of men (3 times as high as non diabetic men).
- Vascular disease can lead to a narrowing of vessels carrying blood to the penis and other areas.
- Nonexclusive disease can cause problems keeping the blood within the penis.
- MS, spinal cord injury and Parkinson's disease are all conditions where the nervous system can affect transmission of signals from the brain to the blood vessels in the penis.
- Damage from surgery to the pelvic area such as in prostrate gland surgery.
- Psychological problems such as anxiety and guilt, relationship issues, stress, depression, boredom and sexual orientation.
Medicines: the side effect of some treatments for high blood pressure as well as for heart disease, depression, peptic ulcers and cancer, can cause ED. Medicines can also affect sexual drive and desire (libido) or even cause problems with ejaculation and orgasm. So if you have a problem and are on medication, check out whether there are any ED side effects.
Lifestyle: alcohol and drugs commonly affect the ability to get and maintain an erection and in the long term, interfere with the production of the male hormone testosterone. Nicotine damages the circulation in the body thereby increasing the risk of erection problems. In addition, smoking constricts the blood vessels and is a major cause of damage to the arteries leading to the penis. Being physically inactive contributes to poor cardiovascular fitness. Lean, physically active men are less likely to have problems with ED than obese couch potatoes.