Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability to get and maintain an erection that is sufficient for satisfactory sexual intercourse.
Read more about the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
ED 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.
Why does erectile dysfunction happen?
ED can have a range of causes that can be both physical and mental (psychological). Physical causes include:
Psychological causes of ED include:
Read more about the causes of erectile dysfunction.
Although you may be embarrassed, it is important that a healthcare professional diagnoses ED so that the cause can be identified.
ED can usually be diagnosed after a consultation with your GP. 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?
ED 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.
There are several treatment options that have proved very successful for ED. Medication, such as sildenafil (sold as Viagra), can be used to successfully manage it in at least two-thirds of men. 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 ED have improved significantly in recent years. These days most people are eventually able to return to successful intercourse.
Read more about treating erectile dysfunction.