Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a consistent inability to sustain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. Sometimes the term impotence is used, but medical professionals use the term erectile dysfunction or ED to describe this disorder. The American Foundation for Urologic Disease (AFUD) says use of the term ED differentiates this problem from other issues that interfere with sexual intercourse, such as lack of sexual desire and problems with ejaculation and orgasm.


Basically, any disorder that impairs blood flow in the penis has the potential to cause ED. This includes:

  • Disease
  • Injury
  • Surgical side effects- Surgery, for example prostate surgery, can also cause problems for the nerves and arteries near the penis, causing ED. (Read about "The Prostate") In addition, injury to the penis, spinal cord, prostate, bladder, and pelvis can lead to ED.
  • Drug side effects
  • Psychological issues

Of these, disease is the most common cause. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says diseases - including diabetes, kidney disease, chronic alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, atherosclerosis, and vascular disease - account for about 70 percent of cases of ED. Between 35 and 50 percent of men with diabetes experience ED.

Many medications can also result in ED as a side effect. NIDDK says these include different types of drugs that can be used to treat high blood pressure, allergies, depression, ulcers, and anxiety. In addition, there are psychological factors that themselves contribute to roughly 10 percent of ED cases, according to NIDDK. Smoking is also linked to erectile problems. This may be because of the damaging effect smoking has on blood vessels and circulation.

For more information about erectile dysfunction, click here.