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Understanding Erectile Dysfunction

If you have trouble getting or keeping an erection, you have lots of company. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem getting an erection firm enough or keeping it long enough for intercourse. The problem can happen to any man at any age. But health problems that can lead to ED become more common as a man ages. Up to half of men over age 40 experience ED at some point.

Caucasian man and woman on bed, embracing.

Causes of ED

ED can have many causes. Most are physical. Some are emotional issues. Often, a combination of causes is involved. Causes of ED may include:

  • Medical conditions such as diabetes or depression

  • Smoking tobacco or marijuana

  • Drinking too much alcohol

  • Side effects of medications

  • Injury to nerves or blood vessels

  • Emotional issues such as stress or relationship problems

ED Can Be Treated

Prescription medications for ED are now available. They help many men who try them. Depending upon the cause of the ED, though, medications may not be enough. In these cases, other treatment options are available. These include erectile aids and surgery. Your healthcare provider can tell you more about the treatment that is right for you. And new treatments for ED are being studied. No matter what the treatment you decide on, stay in touch with your doctor. If your symptoms persist, he or she may be able to adjust your current treatment or try something new.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 2/10/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.