Erectile dysfunction (impotence) 


Male sexual dysfunction

Don't suffer in silence with erection problems or premature ejaculation: find out the causes and treatments

Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability to get and maintain an erection.

Erectile dysfunction is a very common condition, particularly in older men. It is estimated that half of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 will have it to some degree.

When to see your GP

See your GP if you have erectile dysfunction for more than a few weeks. They will assess your general state of health because the condition can be the first sign of more serious health conditions, such as heart disease (when the heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted).

Why does erectile dysfunction happen?

Erectile dysfunction can have a range of causes, both physical and psychological. Physical causes include:

Psychological causes of ED include:

Sometimes erectile dysfunction only occurs in certain situations. For example, you may be able to get an erection during masturbation, or you may find that you sometimes wake up with an erection but you are unable to get an erection with your sexual partner.

If this is the case, it is likely the underlying cause of erectile dysfunction is psychological (stress related). If you are unable to get an erection under any circumstances, it is likely that the underlying cause is physical.

Erectile dysfunction can also be a side-effect of using certain medicines.

Read more about the causes of erectile dysfunction.


Although you may be embarrassed, it's important to get a diagnosis so that the cause can be identified.

Your GP can usually diagnose erectile dysfunction. This will involve answering questions about your symptoms, as well as a physical examination and some simple tests.

Read more about diagnosing erectile dysfunction.

How is erectile dysfunction treated?

Erectile dysfunction is primarily treated by tackling the cause of the problem, whether this is physical or psychological.

The narrowing of the arteries (called atherosclerosis) is one of the most common causes of ED. In these cases your GP may suggest lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, to try to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. This may help to relieve your symptoms as well as improving your general health.

You may also be given medication to treat atherosclerosis, such as cholesterol-lowering statins and drugs to reduce your blood pressure.

A number of treatments have been successful in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Medication, such as sildenafil (sold as Viagra), can be used to manage it in at least two-thirds of cases. Vacuum pumps that encourage blood to flow to the penis and cause an erection are also successful in 90% of cases.

Psychological treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and sex therapy.

Overall, treatments for erectile dysfunction have improved significantly in recent years. Most men are eventually able to have sex again.

Read more about treating erectile dysfunction.

Page last reviewed: 23/09/2014

Next review due: 23/09/2016


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 393 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 14 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

merlinthecat said on 10 October 2014

In reply to THE POET, I have been using Viagra for some years and they are excellent. Erections feel perfectly natural and, apart from a very slight and short lived sense of sometimes feeling a bit flat afterwards, there are no side effects. My own ED problem is particularly on first times I'm 66 and not married.

I see no reason why they should be addictive although the effectiveness of a good, reliable erection can obviously be addictive in itself.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Jacqui Olliver said on 02 September 2014

Erectile dysfunction is equally challenging for both partners. It's unfortunate that many women don't understand that they are very rarely the issue, although in some instances of ED it is predominantly the partner's lack of interest which is causing the problem.

ED is usually made up of several contributing factors and it's important to have strategies in place to deal with each of them so you can permanently end the problem.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

DeeKK said on 21 July 2014

I used to have ED and could barely last over a few minutes. I've had some very embarrassing moments which really caused my confidence to dip. Then I read somewhere that "the little man is just an extension of the big man". Essentially, you cannot expect your equipment to go the distance if you cannot do so on a physical exercise, such as a jog. Therefore I took up exercising. These days, I jog for 30mins twice a week. And instead of Viagra, I opted for approved food supplements and natural stamina boosters.

The results have been remarkable. I'm more confident now, and the effect has trickled down to every facet of my life. It's a good feeling to know that you're capable of making your woman happy in bed.

Honestly, ED can cause a man's sense of manhood to quickly evaporate into thin air. And it's not a pleasant experience to have. I just want to share my story with you, so you can take inspiration from it. I hope this helps.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

thepoet said on 14 April 2014

I am hoping that somone could give some good advice.
Approx 1 year maybe less I noticed i was not maintaining a full erection when having sex. I went and saw my GP who reffered me for all the necessary blood tests and the tests came back with good results ie i did not have diabetese or high blood pressure etc, etc.
He said i had ED and prescribe me viagra (2 moths ago) i have not taken the pills as i feel nervous for some reason.I dont want to rely on pills and was hoping that i would get an erction normally. ( I still get an erection in the mornings). If take the pills does it ean i will be on them for the rest of my life will it help me get my normal erection back ? without having to take the pills in the future. on top of this i dont feel sexually aroused as before, i am 46 years old.
I think my problem came as i have been stressed for the last few years.
I hope someone can give me some good and sound advice.

Thank you very much.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Caregiver said on 06 April 2014

Hope this might help others. I experienced ED whilst in Ramipril for hypertension. The drug wasn't having much effect on the hypertension and when I saw the GP about this I also mentioned the ED.

He immediately said that there was a hypertension drug that might help with the ED as well. He prescribed Losartan. Even on a low does this has brought my BP down and dealt with the ED very effectively.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Delson said on 31 March 2014

The issue of impotence can break a home as in tearing apart a long built relationship. This happened to my beloved uncle and we tried all sort of medications but still the same. I read lot of articles at but still cannot help the situation. Its just too complicated....

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

MancYank said on 12 February 2014

Impotence is definitely not a laughing matter. Here's my story, just in case it helps anyone else out there... I'm in my 40s, and erectile dysfunction was affecting my relationship and my confidence. I was feeling like "less of a man", because I wasn't able to sexually perfom like I used to. I was getting worried about it all, which I think also contributed to some of my performance anxiety, and just compounded the problem further. I was becoming a psychological and emotional wreck, and my relationship was suffereing. Even though my wife was understanding and patient, I was beginning to withdraw and push her away, feeling like I couldn't give her what she needed, despite her reassurances and continued espressions of love for me. I knew I had to do something about it, for my own sake (and our marriage's sake), but I was too embarrassed to go to my GP. So, even though I knew it would cost more to do so (compared to the prices for prescriptions on the NHS), I used an online clinic instead. But I wasn't sure who to use or to trust, because I've heard many stories about dodgy online medicine. So I asked one of my mates, who had spoken to me in confidence about his own similar problems a while before. He recommended that I use a private online clinic based in the UK, which I tried out, and have been using them ever since. Now I don't worry about ED, my relationship has been saved, and I personally feel so much better and I'm back to "normal". I think the greatest benefit of finally getting some treatment is my own renewed confidence and emotional well being, which has enabled me to be a better husband & person. So if anyone out there is suffering from ED and isn't sure what to do, then speak to your GP, or have an online consultation, or whatever, but you have to do something to help resolve it, for your own sake, and those you love. And the sooner you do it, the sooner you'll be happier. I hope my story helps even just one person.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Ravens56 said on 29 January 2014

I have suffered fro ED for 8 years. My GP prescribed Viagra, when that did not work he prescribed levitra. When that did not work he sent me for counselling, this had no effect either. I went back to him and he just shrugged his shoulders and told me he had done all he could to help, and he could see no physical reason for my ED. I gave up and became depressed and withdrawn. Three years later I suffered a heart attack and had to undergo surgery, following this the surgeon said it was likely that the arteriosclerosis that caused the heart attack could also be responsible for the ED. The continuing ED has since destroyed my marriage. My wife found she could no longer live with a man who failed to meet her needs as a woman. Gaps seem to be ignorant of the fact that this condition can be so damaging, not just on a physical level, but physiologically as well.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Anonymous said on 20 January 2014

Any woman that doesn't stand by her man and calls him nasty names because of this worrying illness is a horrid person. This is a very scary time for men, they need their wife's support not tasteless put downs! It's hard enough for men to be open & speak to anyone about this taboo subject. Support your husband/partner and reassure him that you will stand by him. If any woman in your life doesn't stand by you and does verbally abuse you then she has never nor will she ever love you. Get rid!! You'd be better off without her. Don't think that nobody will want you because there are really nice & understanding women out there. We're not all cruel & shallow. Good luck with your futures

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

adrianbailey said on 01 August 2013

You can reduce your risk of ED by:

losing weight if you are overweight
giving up smoking
moderating your alcohol consumption
not taking illegal drugs
exercising regularly
reducing stress

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

jackgrubert said on 14 April 2013

This is a good article. I personally chose the approach as getting medical help. My doctor recommended Sildenafil as a suitable medication from erectile dysfunction for me. After the second try I got my ED treated with this pill. It is some kind of wonder!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Mr Alan H said on 26 March 2013

I had a vasectomy in 2003. From that day forward I have never had an orgasm .. And since then my erections have diminished in strength. It has destroyed my marriage. I have taken all the tests and everything physical and psychological is normal.. Also the medicines don't seem to help. I have asked for the sterilisation to be reversed, due partially to the fact that the side effects were never discussed prior to the procedure, also because of my age. I feel that I should be allowed to have the operation to reverse the vasectomy as it has contributed to my mental Heath being seriously effected.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

David Miles said on 12 March 2013

I have been suffering from ED for quite some time now. It's very frustrating, and i've even started to take it out on my work colleagues - inventing their aflictions to make me feel better about myself.

I have put on weight and lost what hair i did have. I feel very emasculated and even have to ask my wife to carry out DIY tasks around the house. She has even referrerd to my penis as a 'useless flacid flap of skin' which I thought was particuarly harsh. Hopefully the above information will help.


Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

ck1662 said on 07 January 2013

I had the missfortune of suffering from Erectile Disfunction. 4 and a half years ago I broke my back in an accident, it very nearly paralised me. After the consultants had sorted out my medication so I had a "reasonable" quality of life, my wife and I tried to carry on our previous good sex life, but I could not get an erection. We blamed the medication I was on, but the doctor said it shouldn't affect my labido or my erections. My wife thought it was her, that I didn't fancy her, that I didn't want to have sex with her. I am telling you this because I know there will be others out there that can relate to this.
It was 3years after my accident whilst having blood tests for suspected Parathyroidism that I mentioned my ED. The consultant had my blood checked for Testosterone and found my testicles were/are knackered, no explanation why just that they no longer produce Testosterone thus creating my ED. I was given a Testosterone gel to apply daily but after 6weeks there was little improvement. Also there is a risk to women if coming into regular contact with the gel of male hormones being absorbed. I have now been on Testosterone injections(testosterone undecanoate) for nearly a year now and I can now rise to the occasion. I have the injections every 10 weeks in alternate buttocks. The injection is an oil that needs to be injected into a large muscle mass. it is uncomfortable due to the viscosity of the solution/oil, but beleive you me, worth it. If prescribed it warm it up first it helps it go in easier.
Don't give up hope, there is help. Talk to your GP but more importantly talk to your partner the more you are both involved the better it is, it is less stressful for the man, stress being a contributing factor to ED. At least your partner will understand and if they are involved from day one they can put their own questions directly to the doctor. It does help, trust me.
Good luck to all ED sufferers. There is hope

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Find and choose services for Erectile dysfunction