Erectile dysfunction defined

Erectile Dysfunction is the consistent inability to have an erection that is rigid enough or to maintain it long enough to complete sexual intercourse.
If your erections do not become firm enough to allow sexual penetration, you have Erectile Dysfunction. If your erections have the necessary rigidity, but are only firm briefly, you may have Erectile Dysfunction. If your erection loses its strength upon penetration, you may have Erectile Dysfunction. If you have any of these conditions, take the first step toward a treatment that can change your life. Talk with your partner and physician.
Normal erections require the coordinated actions of a healthy brain, pliable blood vessels, fully functional nerves, and certain hormones. Erotic stimulation, triggered by the five senses or by memory, begins the erectile process. The nervous system responds by sending chemical messages to and from the pelvic area.
These messages cause the smooth muscle tissue inside the penis to relax. The blood vessels dilate, allowing more blood to flow into the corpora cavernosa, the two erectile bodies within the penis. Like sponges, they capture more blood, swelling and lengthening the penis. When all of the spaces are occupied with blood, the organ becomes rigid. The enlarged corpora cavernosa take up so much space inside the penis that strong pressure is exerted against the penile veins, greatly reducing their outflow of blood.
At this point, the erect penis contains seven to eight times more blood than the same flaccid or non-erect penis. As long as the sexual stimulation is continued, an erect stage can be maintained until orgasm and ejaculation.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

Erectile Dysfunction is not a disease, but a secondary condition brought on by other primary causes. It is a side effect – a symptom of something else. Twenty years ago, when couples went to their doctors asking for help with erectile problems, they were told that there was no treatment because it was caused by aging, or it was psychological. A generation of research has been conducted in the intervening years. With more knowledge now, doctors divide this very common disorder into four general causes:
  1. Physical or Medical (Organic impotence)
  2. Psychological
  3. Mixed origin – both psychological and physical
  4. Unknown origin
About 85% of this problem is due to medical or physical problems, 10% is psychological and the other 5% is unknown. Once a man fails to become erect a few times, he places more stress on himself to have an erection by sheer will power. When this too fails, he often begins to have a psychological problem.


Psychological erectile dysfunction

Describes the problem when physical causes cannot be found. Pure psychological impotence usually comes on suddenly. Job stress, a troubled marriage, financial worries, or a fear of failure can cause it. Any nagging, everyday situation that occupies conscious and subconscious thoughts can cause impotence. Depression or concern over poor sexual performance can also cause Erectile Dysfunction.
It should be noted that every man experiences temporary periods of impotence at one time or another during his life. That’s entirely normal and you do not need treatment unless the problem is persistent.

Physical or medical erectile dysfunction

Usually develops gradually and is characterized by any of these three basic functional problems:
  • Failure to initiate results from impaired release of the chemical messages sent by the nervous system. The inability to initiate an erection can be seen in cases of hormonal insufficiency, spinal cord injury, radical pelvic surgery, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Failure to fill results from poor blood flow into the penis. The inability to develop an erection rigid enough for intercourse is caused by blockage in the arteries, common in cases of hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and pelvic trauma.

  • Failure to store results from venous leakage when blood escapes too quickly from the penis, leaking back into the body. This inability to maintain an erection rigid enough for intercourse is common in cases of hypertension, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and pelvic trauma.
The important thing to remember is that most causes of impotence are physical and often beyond your control. While it is not good to have these medical problems (diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke or prostate disease, etc.), they are conditions couples can probably accept and should feel comfortable about trying to correct.

Vascular disease

Diseases of the blood vessels (vascular disease) are the leading cause of Erectile Dysfunction. Vascular disorders include arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), hypertension, high cholesterol and other conditions that interfere with blood flow. If poor blood flow occurs in the heart or coronary vessels, it causes heart attacks; when it occurs in the brain, it causes strokes; and when it occurs in the penis, it causes Erectile Dysfunction.
Another vascular problem, “venous leakage,” occurs when the penile veins are unable to close off (constrict) properly during an erection. When the veins “leak,” blood escapes too quickly back into the body and the erection fails.



Is a very common cause of Erectile Dysfunction. This disease can damage both blood vessels and nerves. When nerves are affected, the brain cannot properly transmit the sexual stimulus that creates an erection. Some 50% to 70% of all diabetic men ultimately suffer from Erectile Dysfunction.

Nerve disorders

Are another cause of Erectile Dysfunction. They affect the nervous system and include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injury with paralysis.

Pelvic surgery

May also result in Erectile Dysfunction. Surgical procedures involving the prostate gland, the bladder or colon may damage the nerves and/or injure the blood vessels involved in erectile response. Radiation treatment in this area can also affect the erectile process.

Prescription drugs

Often cause Erectile Dysfunction as a side effect, and over 200 medications fall into this category. Never change a dosage or stop taking a prescribed drug without the advice of your doctor. Substance abuse affects erectile function as well. Illegal drugs and the excessive use of alcohol or tobacco can seriously damage the blood vessels and nerves involved in a normal erection.

Hormonal deficiencies

Are another source of Erectile Dysfunction. For example, low levels of testosterone or thyroid hormone often cause poor quality erections. Excessive production of prolactin by the pituitary gland may contribute to a low testosterone level and lack of desire. Diabetes is also considered a hormonal disorder.