Erection Problems (Erectile Dysfunction)
Erection problems may be caused by physical problems related to the blood vessels, nerves, and hormones. Or they may be caused by psychological issues.
Normally, an Reference erection occurs when your imagination or senses (vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste) are stimulated and you become aroused. Your central nervous system sends nerve impulses that increase blood flow to your penis.
Physical problems cause about 8 out of 10 cases of erectile dysfunction. Physical problems are often the cause of erection problems in men age 50 or older. They include:
- Reference Side effects of medicines, including some medicines for high blood pressure or depression. In some cases it may be possible to change the dose of the medicine or to use another medicine. Talk to your doctor.
- The use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs. Stopping or reducing the use of these substances may make the erection problem less severe.
- Reference Problems with the blood vessels. These problems may prevent blood from filling the penis or from staying there long enough to maintain an erection. For example, long-term high blood pressure can cause damage to blood vessels and lead to erection problems.
- Problems with the nerves (neurologic
problems). These may prevent arousal signals from traveling from the brain and spinal
cord to the penis.
- Nerve disorders such as Reference Parkinson's disease Opens New Window, Reference Alzheimer's disease Opens New Window, Reference multiple sclerosis Opens New Window, and stroke may interfere with a man's ability to have an erection. And they may lower sexual desire.
- Nerve damage from diabetes, complications from surgery, and spinal cord injury also may cause problems.
- Problems with the structure of the penis or its surrounding tissues.
- Reference Hormonal factors, such as a low level of the hormone Reference testosterone Opens New Window.
- Pelvic injuries and complications of Reference prostate Opens New Window or other surgeries that interfere with nerve impulses or blood flow to the penis.
Psychological issues seem to be involved in many cases of erection problems. These mental issues include:
- Reference Depression Opens New Window (which also has a physical component).
- Reference Anxiety Opens New Window.
- Reference Stress Opens New Window.
- Reference Grief Opens New Window.
- Problems with current or past relationships.
These things interfere with the erection process by distracting the man from things that would normally arouse him.
Erection problems in men younger than 40 who have no physical risk factors are more likely to be caused by mental factors than physical causes.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference May 14, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology