Erectile dysfunction (ED) may be a taboo topic of discussion, but it is NOT uncommon by any means. In fact, nearly 50% of men over the age of 40 experience ED to some degree. Impotence was previously thought to be caused solely by psychological issues, but studies have shown that for many men, ED is caused by physical problems that are treatable. The causes of ED can now be narrowed down by simply making an appointment with your doctor to find the best treatment option for you. Following are 8 common causes of erectile dysfunction:
What could be causing my ED?
If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, you may also have some degree of cardiovascular disease. ED can be an indicator of atherosclerosis, which is narrowing of the arteries. When your heart pumps, blood goes through arteries to get to different parts of your body. Most people associate atherosclerosis with heart attacks, but this condition has no prejudice. It can also affect the blood vessels supplying your penis.
You can think of the arteries in your body like the branches on a tree. To get to the penis, the blood travels through arteries in the stomach and then branches off. When an erection occurs those arteries widen, which increase blood flow to the penis, making it swell. ED often means that the vessels that lead to the penis may have blockage, causing impotence or erectile dysfunction. Procedures such as the RESTORE Procedure can remove blockages and increase blood flow. Contact us to see if you are a candidate.
A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that approximately 49% of men ages 40 to 79 had two common characteristics: high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.
When arousal first occurs the brain sends signals to the penis causing the smooth muscle chambers to relax and arteries to widen. Blood flow then rushes through the arteries to the penis, causing an erection.
If you have high blood pressure the smooth muscle in the penis loses its ability to relax, the arteries that carry blood into the penis do not dilate properly, which results in not enough blood flow to make the penis erect. This is one of the more common causes of ED.
Diabetes causes nerve and blood vessel damage throughout the body due to unstable blood sugar levels. When nerve damage occurs, the stimulation signal from the brain to the penis can be affected. Poor blood circulation also reduces the blood flow to the penis. This combination often prevents men with diabetes from either getting an erection or sustaining an erection long enough to ejaculate.
Studies have shown that up to 75% of men who have diabetes experience some form of erectile dysfunction and it usually occurs between 10 to 15 years earlier than men who do not have diabetes. Because diabetes goes untreated in a large number of both men and women, research indicates the ED may be an early indicator of diabetes, particularly in men who are 45 or younger.
Low testosterone and impaired blood flow to the penis are the two main causes that heavier men tend to have erectile dysfunction. Low testosterone causes ED by reducing the natural sex drive and the ability to have satisfying sex or even obtain a sustainable erection at all. Furthermore, having adequate blood flow is essential to getting and maintaining an erection.
A 2007 study of 1,667 men ages 40 and above found that each one-point increase in BMI was associated with a 2% decrease in testosterone. In addition, a 2008 study of 1,862 men ages 30 and above found that waist circumference was an even stronger predictor of low testosterone levels than BMI. A four-inch increase in waist size increased a man’s odds of having a low testosterone level by 75%. (Harvard Men’s Health Watch)
Being heavier also increases your risk of acquiring diseases closely linked to erectile dysfunction such as diabetes, heart disease and several others. The heavier guy is 30% more likely to have problems getting and sustaining erections, according to a Harvard study.
Smoking is unhealthy for many reasons, but in regards to ED, smoking is another cause of atherosclerosis, which is the plaque build-up in the arteries that obstructs blood flow through the vessels that lead to the penis. Smoking can also damage the lining of the blood vessels, which is another one of the causes of ED.
Certain psychological and emotional issues can be a cause or amplify other causes of erectile dysfunction. Common symptoms to watch out for are decreased libido or loss of interest in sex. Depression tends to be among the more common one with odds ratio of 1.82 for men with depression as reported in a study by Massachusetts Male Aging study. This means men suffering from depression have much higher odds of developing ED. View our detailed blog post on the 6 Common Psychological Causes of ED.
It is no surprise that spinal cord injuries are the most common injuries to cause erectile dysfunction. The spinal cord is what sends nerves to certain parts of the body. If that connection is missing or lost then the brain cannot control those body parts. If the brain does not have a way to tell the penis to get hard, it will remain limp.
Other injuries can also be one of the causes of erectile dysfunction. Major trauma and damage to the pelvis/hips or penis itself can cause long term erectile dysfunction if the nerves or blood supply is interrupted.
Medications and street drugs can play a role in the causes of erectile dysfunction for up to 20% of men. The most common culprits are certain blood pressure drugs, pain medications, and antidepressants. Do not stop taking any medicines without talking to your doctor first and be aware that street drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana can cause impotence too.
Here are the most common legal offenders:
- NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, Motrin)
- Blood pressure medications
- Propecia (finasteride) for hair loss
- Antiepileptic (carbamazepine and phenytoin more so than the others).
- Neuroleptics (antipsychotic medications used in the treatment of mental illness).
With the many causes of ED, the task of finding a treatment option can seem daunting. However, first step in treating erectile dysfunction is finding the cause; visit your doctor and honestly discuss your health conditions, medications and sexual activity. There are many treatment options available that can help you get on the path to sexual freedom. Our clinic offers a comprehensive ED Evaluation Package that can identify the root cause of your ED and provide a tailored treatment plan. The Evaluation includes two office visits, two one on one consultations with our physicians, testosterone level testing, penile ultrasound (performed by a Board Certified Radiologist), trial medication (about a 90% success rate right in our office), discounted PRP shot pricing, and more for only $199.
Looking for more information? Download our Free eBook on the 8 Common Causes of Erectile Dysfunction that includes treatment options for each cause!