If there’s one condition that men hope to never get, it’s erectile dysfunction (ED). A man’s ability to get and sustain an erection is often equated with virility and masculinity. The inability to do so can greatly affect men’s self-esteem.
To help avoid preventable causes of impotence, it’s important to understand what may cause the condition. Click through the slideshow to learn more.
One Condition, Many Causes
Impotence can arise through multiple causes, both physical and psychological. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) reports that around 85 percent of ED cases are physically based. This is because many medical conditions share the same problem: the inability for blood vessels to allow blood to flow through them normally. Though it’s often assumed that such problems can be blamed on what’s in your head, only 15 percent are attributable to purely psychological causes
Take Care of Your Heart
A number of related heart conditions are common causes of ED, including:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
- heart disease
In fact, according to UMMC, men with ED are at higher risk to have a heart attack or stroke. Close to half of all men with ED also have high blood pressure. Diabetes, which is also associated with cardiovascular disease, is another risk factor for impotence
Your Brain and Hormones
Several neurologic and central nervous system conditions—such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis—have been linked to ED. Other causes are hormonal in nature, for example: troubles with the pituitary gland that lead to too-high levels of the hormone prolactin, and low levels of the hormone testosterone.
However, while decreased testosterone is often blamed for impotence, UMMC reports that testosterone levels are only responsible for about 5 percent of ED cases
Some types of physical trauma and injury—particularly those that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord—may cause nerve damage that leads to erectile dysfunction. The following surgeries also can cause a decrease in or loss of sexual function:
- orthopedic surgery
- fistula surgery
- surgeries for prostate, colon, or rectal cancer
NOTE: Vasectomies are not linked with ED.
Medication and Dysfunction
A long list of drugs may affect sexual performance and cause impotence. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified many medications—both prescription and nonprescription—that can lead to ED in some men, including:
- hypertension medicines
- medications for Parkinson’s disease
However, these medications don’t affect all men in the same way. While some may experience signs of ED from use of certain medications, others may not.
It’s Not All Physical
Mental health conditions and psychological states can also cause ED. Depression, anxiety, stress, relationship difficulties, and poor communication all may interfere with sexual feelings and could cause or worsen erection problems.
Anxiety is one of the most common contributors to psychological impotence according to UMMC. Relationship problems often directly impact sexual performance—particularly if anger and tension arise between partners.
Staying Healthy and Happy
Though not all causes of impotence are equally preventable, you can make a difference in the condition by making smart choices. Quit smoking, lose weight, and exercise often. These simple lifestyle changes can help circumvent underlying problems that may lead to ED.
Other actions that might help include improving communication in your relationships and seeking treatment for alcohol or drug problems. By practicing healthy habits, you can decrease your chance of developing ED.