Erectile dysfunction (impotence) is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex.
Having erection trouble from time to time isn't necessarily a cause for concern. If erectile dysfunction is an ongoing issue, however, it can cause stress, affect your self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems. Problems getting or keeping an erection can also be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs treatment and a risk factor for heart disease.
If you're concerned about erectile dysfunction, talk to your doctor — even if you're embarrassed. Sometimes, treating an underlying condition is enough to reverse erectile dysfunction. In other cases, medications or other direct treatments might be needed.
Erectile dysfunction symptoms might include persistent:
A family doctor is a good place to start when you have erectile problems. See your doctor if:
This blood test measures the prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels in the blood. Antigens are any substances that evoke responses from a person's immune system. The prostate specific antigen levels can be elevated in the presence of prostate cancer. However, it is important to understand that other benign prostate conditions may also elevate PSA, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is noncancerous swelling of the prostate. The PSA test is not recommended for all men, and there is considerable controversy over the role of PSA testing. Some organizations, such as the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), now recommend against PSA screening. The pros and cons of PSA screening should always be discussed with your healthcare provider before testing. Some of the cons include unnecessary testing and procedures, unnecessary costs, and significantly increased anxiety.
Many organizations, including the USPSTF, recommend mammography screening for breast cancer every 1 year to 2 years after age 50. This test is done in conjunction with a clinical breast exam
Many organizations, including the USPSTF, recommend screening for colon cancer or colon polyps at age 50, earlier if you have a family history or other risk factors
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that all adults be screened for diabetes or prediabetes starting at age 45, regardless of weight. Additionally, individuals without symptoms of diabetes should be screened if they are overweight or obese and have one or more additional diabetes risk factors.
Consult your healthcare provider regarding all of these as well as other types of screening tests, based on your medical condition, as not all healthcare providers are in agreement in regard to which screening tests should be done and for which age groups.
Male sexual arousal is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction can result from a problem with any of these. Likewise, stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction.
Sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues causes erectile dysfunction. For instance, a minor physical condition that slows your sexual response might cause anxiety about maintaining an erection. The resulting anxiety can lead to or worsen erectile dysfunction.
Physical causes of erectile dysfunction
In many cases, erectile dysfunction is caused by something physical. Common causes include :
The brain plays a key role in triggering the series of physical events that cause an erection, starting with feelings of sexual excitement. A number of things can interfere with sexual feelings and cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. These include :
As you get older, erections might take longer to develop and might not be as firm. You might need more direct touch to your penis to get and keep an erection.
Various risk factors can contribute to erectile dysfunction, including :
Complications resulting from erectile dysfunction can include:
The best way to prevent erectile dysfunction is to make healthy lifestyle choices and to manage any existing health conditions. For example: