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Erectile Dysfunction Causes

Written by sshowalter, FoundHealth.

Risk Factors

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:


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
  • Cirrhosis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Peyronie's disease (bending of the penis caused by scar tissue)
  • Endocrine disorders (hypogonadism, hyperthyroidism , hypothyroidism , hyperprolatinemia, Cushing syndrome )
  • Neurological disorders (such as multiple sclerosis , peripheral neuropathy , stroke )
  • Myotonic dystrophy
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Psychiatric disorders (such as anxiety , depression , schizophrenia )
  • Psychological problems (stress, personal relationships, new partners)

Traumatic Conditions

Trauma, whether through an accident or surgery, can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction. Trauma includes:

  • Vascular surgery
  • Urologic surgery, such as prostate surgery
  • Pelvic surgeries (particularly for prostate cancer)
  • Spinal cord injury


Certain behaviors can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction, including:

  • Alcohol use
  • Illegal drug use (eg, heroin, marijuana)
  • Anabolic steroid use
  • Heavy smoking


Certain medications can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction, including:

  • Antihypertensives
  • Antihistamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Tranquilizers
  • Antipsychotics
  • Histamine blockers
  • Nicotine

If you suspect a medication may be affecting your sexual functioning, talk with your doctor. Do not stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor first.


Severe zinc deficiency is known to negatively affect sexual function. Since marginal zinc deficiency is relatively common, it is logical to suppose that supplementation with zinc may be helpful for some men. However, this hypothesis has only been studied in men receiving kidney dialysis.1,2 The results were promising.



American Urological Association Foundation website. Available at: .

Guay AT, Spark RF, Bansal S, et al. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists medical guidelines for clinical practice for the evaluation and treatment of male sexual dysfunction: a couple’s problem. 2003 update. Endocr Pract.2003;9:77-95.

Sivalingam S, Hashim H, Schwaibold H. An overview of the diagnosis and treatment of erectile dysfunction. Drugs.2006;66:2339-2355.

Webber R. Erectile dysfunction. Clinical Evidence.2005;13:1120-1127.

  1. Mahajan SK, Abbasi AA, Prasad AS, et al. Effect of oral zinc therapy on gonadal function in hemodialysis patients. A double-blind study. Ann Intern Med. 1982;97:357-361.
  2. Brook AC, Johnston DG, Ward MK, et al. Absence of a therapeutic effect of zinc in the sexual dysfunction of hemodialysed patients. Lancet. 1980;2:618-620.

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