What are the Causes of Erectile Dysfunction?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 May 2019
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Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or maintain an erection. There are many causes of erectile dysfunction, from physical issues to psychological conditions, as well as combinations of the two. Understanding the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction can often help lead to treatment or cures.

Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction can be varied and complex. Sometimes, simple stress over work, school, money, or other unrelated issues can make it all but impossible for a man to get or sustain an erection. Anxiety, too, can play a major part in ED, especially if the man involved is afraid of being seen as insufficient or a failure if he cannot sexually perform. Previous incidences of ED may increase anxiety, causing the condition to recur. Depression and low self-esteem are also seen as common psychological factors that may be causes of erectile dysfunction.

Physical causes of erectile dysfunction tend to be related to a breakdown in the nerves, muscles, or veins that contribute to erectile ability. Nerve damage, such as that caused by injury, neurological diseases, or even diabetes is believed to be a major contributing cause to instances of ED. Men with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other conditions that affect the behavior and function of blood vessels may also be more likely to experience ED on a regular basis. Kidney disease is also linked to the occurrence of ED.


In some cases, it is not illness but treatments for medical conditions that can be causes of erectile dysfunction. ED is often associated with prostate cancer, largely because surgery and treatments meant to cure this type of cancer can impede erectile function. Drugs that alter hormones, as well as many types of prescription medication, may also cause ED.

Some lifestyle factors are believed to contribute to the occurrence of ED. Heavy use of drugs or alcohol may inhibit erections in acute situations, but chronic drug, alcohol, and tobacco use may also do permanent damage. Hardening of the arteries is particularly related to tobacco addiction and is known to be a contributing cause of erectile problems.

Most experts agree that occasional inability to get a sustained erection is quite common even among healthy men. Stress, overexertion, or even a simple common cold may be enough to slow normal function down. Doctors often recommend seeking treatment if the condition appears to be worsening or happens at least 50% of the time. There are many possible treatment for erectile dysfunction, some of which can provide total relief from the condition.



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