Erectile dysfunction

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is the difficulty or inability to achieve or maintain an erection of the penis that results in a satisfactory sexual relationship. It is also known as impotence. Erectile dysfunction is extremely common and increases with age. If it happens frequently, you should see a doctor.

What symptoms does it present?

The main symptom of erectile dysfunction is a change in the quality of the erection. If the cause is physical, you usually have the inability to have an erection when you wake up in the morning. Erectile dysfunction can affect both your ability to have an erection and the length of time an erection lasts.

Erectile dysfunction can also involve a loss of sexual desire.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

There are many causes of erectile dysfunction, including:

Erectile dysfunction can also occur after treatment, including surgery on the spinal cord or prostate.

Your chances of being affected by erectile dysfunction increase with age, drug or alcohol use, and are higher if you are overweight or obese.

Can erectile dysfunction be prevented?

You cannot always prevent erectile dysfunction, but you can reduce your risk by:

  • giving up smoking
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • getting regular exercise

How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?

In most cases diagnosis simply involves asking you about your symptoms and when they started. If the doctor suspects a physical cause that needs investigating, they might refer your for follow-up tests, such as blood tests or an ultrasound.

How is erectile dysfunction treated?

Treatment depends on whether there is an underlying cause – tackling the root of the problem should improve symptoms.

Beyond this the most common form of treatment is medication, which is widely available and effective in making it easier to get an erection. If the problem is low testosterone levels, your treatment may involve hormone replacement therapy.

If medication is not effective, other treatment options include:

  • penis pumps – this may not be directly available from your doctor
  • penile implants – a surgical procedure to implant rods which help you control your erections

If the problem is psychological, there are various therapies available, including: