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Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Symptoms of ED include:
  • Erections that are too soft for sex.
  • Erections that last only briefly.
  • An inability to achieve erections.

These symptoms may occur every time sex is initiated or only some of the time.

The Science behind ED

An erection occurs when blood fills two chambers, within the penis, known as the corpora cavernosa. This causes the penis to expand and stiffen, in a similar manner to a balloon as it is filled with water. The process is triggered by impulses from the brain and genital nerves. Anything that blocks these impulses or restricts blood flow to the penis can result in ED.

ED can have a range of causes, both physical and psychological.

Causes of ED – Physical Factors

1. Lifestyle

Lifestyle choices that impair blood circulation can contribute to ED. Smoking, excessive drinking, and drug abuse may damage the blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the penis. Smoking makes men with atherosclerosis particularly vulnerable to ED. Being overweight and getting too little exercise are other possible risk factors.

2. Medication

ED may be a side effect of medication, including certain blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, tranquilizers, and antihistamines. You should inform your doctor if you suspect a prescription or over-the-counter drug may be causing erectile problems. A list of drugs that can cause ED is listed within the Drug Comparison tab.

3. Chronic Disease

The link between chronic disease and ED is most striking for diabetes (depicted here by a blood sugar test). Nearly one out of every two men with diabetes experiences ED. Other conditions that may cause ED include cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), kidney disease, and multiple sclerosis. These illnesses can impair blood flow or nerve impulses throughout the body.

4. Surgery

Surgery, including treatments for prostate or bladder cancer, can sometimes damage nerves and blood vessels near the penis. In some cases, the nerve damage is permanent, and the patient will require treatment to achieve an erection. In others, surgery causes temporary ED that improves on its own after 6 to 18 months.

5. Cycling

Research suggests avid cyclists suffer more ED than other athletes. The trouble lies in the shape of some bicycle seats that put pressure on the perineum. This area between the anus and scrotum contains arteries and nerves vital to sexual arousal. Cyclists who ride for many hours each week may benefit from seats designed to protect the perineum.

Causes of ED – Psychological Factors

ED usually has something physical behind it, particularly in older men. But psychological factors may be to blame in 10% to 20% of men with ED. Experts say stress, depression, poor self-esteem, and performance anxiety can short-circuit the process that leads to an erection. These factors can also make the problem worse in men whose ED stems from something physical.

ED can often have both physical and psychological causes. For example, if you have diabetes, it may be difficult for you to get an erection, which may cause you to become anxious about the situation. The combination of diabetes and anxiety may lead to an episode of ED.

Other causes of erectile dysfunction

Other possible causes of ED include:
  • obesity,
  • smoking,
  • alcohol,
  • tiredness, and
  • using illegal drugs, such as cannabis, or cocaine.

Sometimes, cycling can also be a cause of ED. People who spend more than three hours a week cycling may experience ED due to the saddle placing pressure on the nerves in their penis.

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