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Signs, Causes, and Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction

5 min read

By Chelsea Dolan

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get and keep an erection for sexual activity. While this can be a taboo topic for men to talk about, it’s actually really common. Cleveland Clinic reports that approximately 1 in 10 adult males will deal with ED on a long-term basis.

There can be a single reason or combination of reasons behind a person’s impotence. The good news is there are various treatments and lifestyle adjustments that can be made to solve the problem.

Signs and Symptoms

When a person experiences erectile dysfunction, it means they are having trouble getting and/or keeping an erection while engaging in sexual activity. Someone with erectile dysfunction may also have lower sexual desire compared to what their normal drive is.

It’s possible for someone to have ED symptoms for both a short and long period of time or even having it occur in only certain situations. The amount of time a person lives with ED will ultimately depend on the cause. It’s important for men to understand the cause of this problem because it can sometimes be a symptom of underlying health conditions.

Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

It’s really important to figure out the cause of erectile dysfunction. Not only to get their sexual health back on track but to also find out if ED is being caused by an underlying health condition.

ED is a symptom of many health conditions, such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Prostate problems
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Low HDL levels
  • Chronic sleep disorders
  • Peyronie’s disease
  • Neurogenic disorders

Medications Linked to ED

There’s a long list of medications that have been known to cause ED in men. It can often be a side effect from medications that need to be taken every day such as blood pressure pills, antidepressants, diuretics, antiepileptics, and others. If you think the cause of your ED is medicine, talk to your doctor before making any changes.

According to WebMD, some other drugs linked to ED include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Parkinson’s disease medications
  • Antiarrhythmics
  • Histamine H2-receptor antagonists
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Prostate cancer medications
  • Chemotherapy drugs

Emotional Causes

Not only can physical factors lead to impotence, but there are also causes related to emotion and mental health. According to WebMD, psychological factors contribute to about 10 to 20-percent of erectile dysfunction cases.

Someone could be dealing with a combination of health and emotional causes. In this case, their treatment plan will need to address both underlying causes. The most common emotional causes behind ED is:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Indifference

Risk Factors

The risk for developing erectile dysfunction increases with age. This is because there is a long list of health conditions that are linked to ED, which are more commonly diagnosed in men of older age brackets. Age isn’t always a factor and some men remain sexually functional into their 80s.

While age is out of your control, there are some lifestyle choices that can trigger ED. Smoking and alcohol consumption are two things that can increase your risk. Additionally, being obese and having a lack of exercise may also contribute to impotence problems.

Diagnosing ED

If you’re experiencing symptoms of ED, then your doctor will have to give you an official diagnosis to come up with a personalized treatment plan. They’ll likely start by reviewing your medical and sexual history before moving on to a physical exam. The doctor will be looking for signs of a hormone problem, as well as ruling out other potential health issues.

WebMD says some of the tests a doctor might order ED diagnosis include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Overnight erection test
  • Intraverbisak test
  • Ultrasound
  • Mental health exam
novak.elcic / Shutterstock

Treatment Options

Erectile dysfunction can be a frustrating condition to be dealing with. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be a permanent problem. Experts at Yale Medicine say almost all cases of ED are treatable. What may prevent some men from overcoming their ED is a reluctance to seek help, whether it be due to embarrassment, shame, or other mental barriers.

The first step to treatment is to share your problem with a urologist or family doctor. Once the doctor gives you an official diagnosis and is able to identify the cause, you can develop a treatment plan.


Some doctors may recommend taking an oral medication that specifically treats erectile dysfunction. These medications typically work by increasing blood flow. The type of medication you take may depend on your overall health and whether you’re living with pre-existing conditions.

If oral medications are not solving the problem, there are other treatment methods available. This plan will depend on the severity of your condition. Some surgical and non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Penile injections
  • Vacuum devices
  • Intraurethral medication
  • Penile prosthesis surgery

Lifestyle Changes

While medications can be helpful, there are many things you can do in your everyday lifestyle to prevent and treat erectile dysfunction. Not only will these methods help to treat and prevent ED, but they can also trigger positive changes in your overall health.

Men can make the following lifestyle changes to help with ED:

  • Get quality sleep every night
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking cigarettes


Another natural treatment that may help overcome ED is by adjusting your diet. According to Healthline, consuming a balanced diet can help you maintain sexual function and decrease your overall risk for erectile dysfunction. Specifically, a Mediterranean diet is especially helpful.

This diet consists of eating less red or processed meat and primarily focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fish. These healthy foods could also help overweight individuals shed some pounds, which can be a helpful way to treat ED.



Physical causes aren’t the only thing that can lead to erectile dysfunction. Some men may require mental health support to improve their symptoms. Seeing a therapist could help you discover the emotional cause behind your ED. From there, you can be given the tools you need to improve your mental health struggles and hopefully, the ED symptoms will go away in time.

Erectile dysfunction can put a strain on couples and men in relationships. In some cases, it might make sense to attend couples therapy or consult with a sex therapist.

Talk to Your Doctor to Learn More

Erectile dysfunction is a common and treatable medical problem. If you’re experiencing symptoms, don’t be afraid to bring them up with a medical professional. They can give you a proper diagnosis and provide the necessary treatment plan to improve your symptoms.

It’s especially important to get diagnosed in the event that ED is caused by an underlying condition. Those dealing with long-term symptoms shouldn’t wait long to see their doctor. The sooner you seek help, the sooner your sexual health can get back on track.

Chelsea Dolan


Chelsea is an experienced writer with a passion for living a healthy life. She does her best at balancing her sugar addiction by going to the gym, parking far away from store entrances, and standing at her work desk from time to time.

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