Erectile dysfunction, also known as ED or impotence, is a common condition experienced by men. It means that you’re unable to get or keep an erection which is firm enough for penetrative sex. But you’re not alone; 4.3 million men in the UK have experienced ED symptoms.
Read our guide below to find out more about the causes and treatments for this condition.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
There are many causes of erectile dysfunction, some of which are only temporary. But for some men, ED has causes which persist over a long period of time. This can include poor blood flow to the penis, due to a narrowing of the blood vessels caused by atherosclerosis, high cholesterol or age.
ED can also be caused by damage to the nerves due to stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, surgery or as a result of radiotherapy treatment for a variety of cancers. Peyronie’s Disease, diabetes and hormone problems can also cause this condition, as can medication such as anti-depressants, beta blockers and recreational drug use.
How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?
ED can lead to stress and anxiety for both you and your partner, plus it could be a symptom of another condition such as heart disease, so it’s important to make an appointment to see a GP as soon as possible.
Your GP will note your medical history and will take a full sexual history. They’ll ask you to talk about your lifestyle, including your diet and alcohol consumption, your exercise regime, work life and how ED is affecting your relationship. They’ll also ask about your sex drive and under what circumstances you suffer with impotence.
They’ll ask you about symptoms and will carry out a physical examination to check your penis and testicles for any abnormalities. They may carry out a rectal examination to check your prostate.
Your blood pressure and weight will be checked, and they may also assess the pulse and nerve reflexes in your legs.
They might take a urine sample or a blood sample to check your thyroid or testosterone levels. They may also arrange an ECG.
What is the latest treatment for erectile dysfunction?
The first treatment your clinician will suggest is making lifestyle changes, including stopping smoking, reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, exercising regularly and watching your diet. This includes reducing the amount of processed food or refined sugars.
Medical treatment can include tablets such as Viagra, Cialis or Levitra, pellets or penile injections of prostaglandin, testosterone replacement therapy, vacuum erection assistance devices (VEDS) and psychological support.
Is erectile dysfunction a sign of prostate cancer?
ED is not a common symptom of prostate cancer. However, treatment for some advanced prostate cancers can cause ED.
Help for erectile dysfunction at Benenden Hospital
Published on 22 September 2023