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mature man worried about an erection problemSome people can talk with their doctors about sex. Others feel that sex is private. They do not want to share details with anyone. But if you have problems getting or keeping an erection, you have good reasons to talk to a doctor about your health and your quality of life.

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In This Article:

What I need to know about erection problems?
What causes an erection?
What causes erectile dysfunction?

What I need to know about erection problems

Erection problems used to be called "impotence." Now the term "erectile dysfunction" is more common. Sometimes people just use the initials ED.

ED can be a sign of health problems. It may mean your blood vessels are clogged. It may mean you have nerve damage from diabetes. If you don’t see your doctor, these problems will go untreated.

What causes an erection?

Hormones, blood vessels, nerves, and muscles must all work together to make an erection. Your brain starts an erection by sending nerve signals to the penis when it senses sexual stimulation. Touching may cause this arousal. Another trigger may be something you see or hear. It may be a sexual thought or dream.

The nerve signals cause the muscles within the penis to relax and let blood flow into the spongy tissue within the penis. Blood collects in this tissue like water filling a sponge. The penis becomes larger and firmer, like an inflated balloon. The veins then get shut off to keep blood from flowing out.

After climax, or after the sexual arousal has passed, the veins open back up and blood flows back into the body.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

Many different conditions can lead to erectile dysfunction. Most of the causes of ED are health problems requiring treatment to help prevent more serious complications than ED:

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol can injure the arteries that supply blood to the penis.
  • Diabetes injures blood vessels and the nerves that control erections.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse can cause erectile dysfunction by damaging blood vessels and deadening the nerves that control erections.
  • Some prescription drugs such as some antidepressants or some high blood pressure medicines can cause erectile dysfunction. Your doctor may be able to change your drug treatment. Never stop taking a prescribed drug without talking to your doctor.
  • Unhealthy habits like smoking, overeating, and avoiding exercise can also contribute to erectile dysfunction.
  • Anything that’s bad for your heart is also bad for your sexual health.
  • An injury to the spinal cord can cause erectile dysfunction by interfering with nerve signals.
  • Treatments for prostate cancer, including radiation and prostate removal, can damage the nerves that control erections.
  • Diseases that affect the nerves, like multiple sclerosis, can also lead to erection problems.
  • A small number of ED cases result from a reduced level of the male hormone testosterone.
  • Doctors used to believe that most cases of erectile dysfunction resulted from mental or emotional problems. We now know that most ED has a physical cause. But depression and worry or anxiety can still cause ED. And ED from physical causes can lead to depression and worry, making physical erectile dysfunction worse.
  • A person should not assume that erectile dysfunction is part of the normal process of aging. There is quite likely an underlying cause.

Just to be in the safe side, it is advisable to see your physician if you experience an erectile dysfunction as it may be a sign of health problems.

Remember, your doctor can offer several new treatments to treat erectile dysfunction. For many men, the answer is as simple as taking a pill. Other men have to try two or three options before they find a treatment that works for them. Don’t give up if the first treatment doesn’t work. Finding the right treatment can take time.

To learn more about Erectile Dysfunction and how to treat it, read
Diagnosis and Treatment For Erectile Dysfunction.

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