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Erectile Dysfunction: Information on Male Impotence

Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2015/03/12

Synopsis: Information on Erectile Dysfunction or Male Impotence including causes and treatments available for ED.

Main Document

What is Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction or ED (It used to be called impotence) is the inability to achieve or sustain an erection suitable for sexual intercourse. Problems with erections may stem from medications, chronic illnesses, poor blood flow to the penis, drinking too much alcohol, or being too tired. Erectile dysfunction can occur at any age, but it is more common in men older than 75.

Erectile dysfunction - (ED) or impotence is sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual activity. A penile erection is the hydraulic effect of blood entering and being retained in sponge-like bodies within the penis. The process is most often initiated as a result of sexual arousal, when signals are transmitted from the brain to nerves in the penis.

Is there a Difference Between Erectile Dysfunction and Impotence

The word "impotence" may also be used to describe other problems that interfere with sexual intercourse and reproduction, such as lack of sexual desire and problems with ejaculation or orgasm. Using the term erectile dysfunction makes it clear that those other problems are not involved.

An occasional problem achieving an erection is nothing to worry about. But failure to do so more than 50% of the time at any age may indicate a condition that needs treatment. About 40% of men in their 40s report at least occasional problems getting and maintaining erections. So do more than half (52%) of men aged 40 to 70, and about 70% of men in their 70s.

Common Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a number of things including:

  • Alcohol and tobacco use - Tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs can all damage a man's blood vessels and/or restrict blood flow to the penis, causing ED.
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) - Atherosclerosis alone accounts for 50% to 60% of ED cases in men 60 and older.
  • Brain or spinal-cord injuries
  • Diabetes (high blood sugar) - Between 35% and 50% of men with diabetes have ED, and ED may be a predictor for other vascular problems.
  • Fatigue - Regular exercise can reduce the risk of ED.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Hypogonadism (which leads to lower testosterone levels)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Overweight men are more likely to have ED
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Prescription medications, such as antidepressants, pain medicine and medicine for high blood pressure
  • Radiation therapy to the testicles
  • Some types of prostate or bladder surgery
  • Stress, anxiety or depression including stress from work or family situations - Stress and anxiety are leading causes of temporary ED.
  • Stroke

Your own feelings can also lead to erectile dysfunction.

For example feeling nervous about having sex after a bad experience or because of a previous episode of impotence and feeling self-conscious that you can't enjoy sex, or thinking that your partner is reacting negatively to you.

Erectile dysfunction happens to about one in ten men.

Today there are a number of treatments that can help, so there is no longer any need for males to suffer as often simple lifestyle changes, medications, and other treatments can be used to treat ED. Quitting smoking, losing excess weight, and increasing physical activity may help some men regain sexual function.

Modern drug therapy for ED made a significant advance in 1983, when British physiologist Giles Brindley dropped his trousers and demonstrated to a shocked Urodynamics Society audience his papaverine-induced erection.

During the late 16th and 17th centuries in France, male impotence was considered a crime, as well as legal grounds for a divorce. The practice, which involved inspection of the complainants by court experts, was declared obscene in 1677.

John R. Brinkley initiated a boom in male impotence cures in the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. His radio programs recommended expensive goat gland implants and "mercurochrome" injections as the path to restored male virility

  • Failure to achieve an erection less than 20% of the time is not unusual and treatment is rarely needed.
  • Failure to achieve an erection more than 50% of the time generally indicates there is a problem requiring treatment.
  • According to the National Institutes of Health, erectile dysfunction affects as many as 30 million men in the United States.
  • According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 5% of 40-year-old men and between 15% and 25% of 65-year-old men experience ED on a long-term basis.
  • About 4 percent of men in their 50s experience a total inability to have an erection; for men in their 60s, that rate jumps to 17 percent, and to 47 percent for men older than 75.



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