Erectile Dysfunction


Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition in which you are unable to get or keep an erection firm enough for satisfactory sexual intercourse.

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is the most common sex problem that men report to their doctor. It affects as many as 30 million men.

Having erection trouble from time to time isn’t necessarily a cause for concern.

If erectile dysfunction is an ongoing issue, however, it can cause stress, affect your self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems. Problems getting or keeping an erection can also be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs treatment and a risk factor for heart disease.

ED that is progressive or happens routinely with sex is not normal, and it should be treated.

ED can be a short-term or long-term problem. You have ED when you

  • Can get an erection sometimes, but not every time you want to have sex
  • Can get an erection, but it does not last long enough for fulfilling or satisfactory sex
  • Are unable to get an erection at any time

Health care professionals, such as primary care providers and urologists, often can treat ED. Although ED is very common, it is not a normal part of aging. Talk with a health care professional if you have any ED symptoms. ED could be a sign of a more serious health problem.

ED can happen:

  • Most often when blood flow in the penis is limited or nerves are harmed
  • With stress or emotional reasons
  • As an early warning of a more serious illness, like:

    • atherosclerosis (hardening or blocked arteries)
    • heart disease
    • high blood pressure
    • high blood sugar from Diabetes 


Finding the cause(s) of your ED will help treat the problem and help with your overall well-being. As a rule, what’s good for your heart health is good for your sex health.

If you’re concerned about erectile dysfunction, talk to your doctor. You may find it embarrassing and difficult to talk with a health care professional about ED. However, remember that a healthy sex life can improve your quality of life and is part of a healthy life overall. Health care professionals, especially urologists, are trained to speak to people about many kinds of sexual problems.

Sometimes, treating an underlying condition is enough to reverse erectile dysfunction. In other cases, medications or other direct treatments might be needed.

How Erections Work

During sexual arousal, nerves release chemicals that increase blood flow into the penis. Blood flows into two erection chambers in the penis, made of spongy muscle tissue (the corpus cavernosum). The corpus cavernosum chambers are not hollow.

During erection, the spongy tissues relax and trap blood. The blood pressure in the chambers makes the penis firm, causing an erection.
When a man has an orgasm, a second set of nerve signals reach the penis and cause the muscular tissues in the penis to contract and blood is released back into a man’s circulation and the erection comes down.

When you are not sexually aroused, the penis is soft and limp. Men may notice that the size of the penis varies with warmth, cold or worry; this is normal and reflects the balance of blood coming into and leaving the penis.


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