Erectile Dysfunction
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What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, also called impotence, is the inability to attain or maintain an erection of the penis that is firm enough for penetration during sexual intercourse. To initiate and maintain an erection, the penis must fill with blood. Nerve signals stimulate this engorgement. They prompt the blood vessels in the penis to expand so blood can fill it. Meanwhile, other blood vessels constrict, trapping blood inside.

Male Genitourinary System
Male Genitourinary System
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

The following factors can cause erectile dysfunction:

Venous Leak:If the blood vessels (veins), which normally are compressed by the blood filling the penis during an erection, are not fully compressed, an erection may not be attainable, or may not last long. This can be caused by injury or diseases which prevent the full...

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop erectile dysfunction with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing erectile dysfunction. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors include:

Age

The incidence of erectile dysfunction rises with age, with about 5% at age 40, to 15%-25% at age 65 and older.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Arteriosclerosis (hardening of arteries)
  • Chronic kidney disease *...

Penile erection is a complex interaction of both halves of your autonomic (automatic) nervous system, your blood circulation, and your emotions. Therefore, symptoms may suggest a psychological problem, such as depression , and/or a medical problem, such as diabetes . Any one of these conditions can lead to erectile dysfunction.

Symptoms include:

  • A less firm penis
  • Fewer erections
  • Fewer spontaneous nighttime erections

Your penis is made up of cylinders with tough linings. These linings can hold large amounts of blood at sufficient pressure to keep it stiff for a period of time. Normally, when stimulated either locally or from your emotions, blood vessels that empty your penis constrict. This prevents blood from exiting. Blood vessels inside your penis open to accept more...

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Be prepared to identify every medication you are taking. As many as 25% of erectile dysfunction cases are due to medicines. Expect questions about the frequency, quality, and duration of your erections. Your answers may help determine if primarily psychological and/or physiological factors are causing your impotence.

The doctor will examine your penis, testes, and rectum. If a physical cause is suspected, laboratory tests may be ordered. The following factors will be evaluated:

  • Routine laboratory tests—Blood count, urinalysis, and a battery of blood chemistry tests will evaluate your general health.
  • Testosterone—If you are over 50 years old or if your doctor suspects hypogonadism...

A risk factor increases your chance of getting a disease. Some risk factors can be avoided, such as smoking. Other risk factors you may have no control over, such as your genetic make-up. If you have a risk factor for erectile dysfunction that you can and do change, you may reduce your risk.

To reduce your risk of becoming impotent:

  • Manage your medical conditions.
  • Talk to your doctor about changing medications.
  • Maintain a healthful diet and exercise program.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Do not use recreational drugs.
  • Consider counseling.

Manage Medical Conditions

Some cases of erectile dysfunction are due to chronic diseases of the lungs, liver, kidneys, heart, nerves, arteries, or veins. With your physician’s help, you can manage conditions that could...

American Urological Association (AUA)

Address:

1000 Corporate Boulevard
Linthicum, MD 21090

Phone:

1-866-746-4282 (US toll free)
410-689-3700

Internet Address:

http://www.urologyhealth.org

Description of Services Provided:

The American Urological Association website provides information on patient support, urologist referrals, patient information, and references.

Impotence Information Center

Address:

PO Box 9
Minneapolis, MN 55440

Phone:

800-843-4315

Description of Services Provided:

Provides information on male sexual function and infertility.

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