Erectile Dysfunction: Symptoms, Causes, & Common Myths 

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition in which you can’t develop or maintain an erection long enough to engage in sexual intercourse. Although this problem can happen naturally every once in a while, frequently struggling with ED could signify other health problems.

Here, we’ll cover some of the primary symptoms of this condition and what red flags to watch out for that may prompt a visit to the doctor.

What Are the Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction?

The most apparent symptom of erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get an erection. Other signs you may experience include [1]:

  • Trouble keeping an erection: You should be able to maintain an erection for a reasonable period of time or until the completion of sexual intercourse.
  • Reduced sexual desire: You may feel a distinct lack of interest in sex-related activities.
  • Feeling embarrassed: You could feel uncomfortable or ashamed that you can’t perform.
  • Low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety: You may feel you aren’t good enough due to ED.

Keep in mind that although ED is far from serious when it occurs occasionally, a consistent, repetitive problem might have a medical reason.

Pay close attention to sudden changes in your bodily functions, and never hesitate to consult a doctor if you suspect something is wrong.

ED Symptoms: When to See Your Doctor

Experiencing issues with maintaining an erection every once in a while isn’t a cause for concern. There are a lot of factors that come into play, like mood, sexual attraction, and stress levels. However, it’s worth speaking to a doctor if you experience erectile dysfunction three times in a row, there’s pain, or if the condition causes a significant strain on your relationship.

Don’t be ashamed of making an appointment with your doctor if ED affects your mental health — it’s a common issue millions of men face each year. Many treatments are available, including natural supplements, prescription medications, and lifestyle alterations.

Make sure to talk to a doctor if you cannot get an erection because of pain, as you might have a condition called Peyronie’s disease [2]. This condition is often due to injury, usually resulting from vigorous sex or an accident.

Also, persistent ED could be an early sign of a more severe condition, such as penile artery narrowing from coronary artery disease or diabetes.

How Will a Doctor Help Me?

A professional can make sure there are no underlying issues, clear up misinformation, and prescribe medication if necessary. Given the case, a medical professional might even suggest a mechanical device, injection, or new therapy to help you sustain an erection [4].

In order to maintain an erection, many parts of the body need to work together — the brain, glands that make hormones work the right way, blood vessels, and the penis itself. The cause of ED can appear at any step of the way.

Medical evaluations cover this range of possibilities by checking your sexual history and performing ultrasounds, blood and urine tests, and even a mental health exam.

Since both physical and emotional factors can lead to ED, your doctor will choose the ideal tests to find the best treatment for you.

What Are the Causes of Erectile Dysfunction?

There are a lot of causes for erectile dysfunction — some are physical, others psychological.

In order to form an erection, the catalyst must occur in the brain directly. This signal can be blocked by factors like stress, low libido, insomnia, nerve disorders, or psychological factors [3].

Once there’s a signal, it’s sent to the base of the penis, where arteries feed blood to the erectile tissue of the penis. These arteries must widen to allow blood to flow through. Physical factors like medications, vascular dysfunctions, or metabolic disorders can all impede blood flow and reduce erectile function.

Health Conditions That Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction

Some major causes of temporary ED are due to lifestyle, such as stress, smoking, and obesity [6]. These causes are usually reversible and treatable without the need for prescription medications.

Other illnesses can help develop ED, such as diabetes, kidney disease, alcoholism, and neurological disorders [5]. These are associated with hormones and blood flow — both are functions that engage with getting an erection.

Some surgeries used to treat prostate and bladder cancer or injuries around your pelvis, spinal cord, or penis can cause accidental damage to the nervous system, also leading to ED.

Medications That Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction

Some medications can cause erectile dysfunction as a side effect. However, it’s important to speak to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medications. In most cases, your doctor can find an alternative.

The following drugs can cause ED as a side effect:

  • Antiarrythmic Drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Chemotherapy Medications
  • Diuretics
  • Hormones & Hormone Replacement Therapies
  • Sedatives

In addition, abusing alcohol, tobacco, stimulant drugs, and painkillers can compromise erectile function over time.

Myths & Facts About Erectile Dysfunction

Several fallacies exist surrounding the causes and treatments of ED. We suggest getting all your facts straight, so we’ll bust the top three myths in this section.

Myth #1: Erectile Dysfunction Is Normal In Older Men

Although people believe ED is a normal part of growing older and men have to learn to live with it, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even if the condition might be more common among the elderly, men can suffer from ED at any age — more importantly, you don’t have to suffer in silence, and help is available.

Myth #2: Erectile Dysfunction Requires Medication

If a friend says pills are the only way to treat ED, don’t hesitate to tell them they’re wrong. Although FDA-approved prescription drugs work well for many, there are several other treatment options you may want to try first.

Depending on the underlying cause, you may find success with simple dietary changes, stress-management techniques, therapy, nutritional supplements, or other non-medical solutions.

Myth #3: Erectile Dysfunction Is Mostly Psychological

Experiencing ED can cause you to worry and build up lots of mental stress, perpetuating the problem. Many mistakenly end up believing only their mind is to blame for this condition.

Still, ED often stems from physical issues. Insufficient blood flow to the penis is the typical cause, and many factors contribute to it, namely disorders like diabetes or alcohol use. Smoking can also prove detrimental to your blood pressure and directly affect your erections.

Conclusion: What Are the Main Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction?

The main symptom of erectile dysfunction is an inability to achieve or maintain an erection long enough to engage in sexual intercourse. This usually isn’t diagnosed as ED until it happens three or more times in a row.

With that said, ED often results in other symptoms, including anger, frustration, sadness, lack of confidence, loss of libido, stress, and various other psychological side effects.

The good news is that there are many effective ways to treat ED at any age, and many of them don’t require a prescription.

References Used

  1. Yafi, F. A., Jenkins, L., Albersen, M., Corona, G., Isidori, A. M., Goldfarb, S., … & Hellstrom, W. J. (2016). Erectile dysfunction. Nature reviews Disease primers, 2(1), 1-20.
  2. Sharma, K. L., Alom, M., & Trost, L. (2020). The etiology of Peyronie’s disease: pathogenesis and genetic contributions. Sexual Medicine Reviews, 8(2), 314-323.
  3. Allen, M. S., & Walter, E. E. (2019). Erectile dysfunction: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of risk-factors, treatment, and prevalence outcomes. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 16(4), 531-541.
  4. Krzastek, S. C., Bopp, J., Smith, R. P., & Kovac, J. R. (2019). Recent advances in the understanding and management of erectile dysfunction. F1000Research, 8.
  5. Bortolotti, A., Parazzini, F., Colli, E., & Landoni, M. (1998). The epidemiology of erectile dysfunction and its risk factors. International journal of andrology, 20(6), 323-334.
  6. Eardley, I. (2013). The incidence, prevalence, and natural history of erectile dysfunction. Sexual medicine reviews, 1(1), 3-16.






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