Erectile dysfunction

Erection difficulties also known as impotence

Erectile dysfunction is common among men over 40 and can be linked to blocked arteries and cardiovascular disease

About erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is also known as impotence. It’s very common in men over 40 and means that it is difficult to get or maintain an erection that is strong enough for sexual activity. It is usually nothing serious, but research shows that it can be one of the first indicators of cardiovascular disease.

Need to know

  • Symptoms and causes of erectile dysfunction icon plus

    There could be a number of reasons why a man would experience erectile dysfunction, including:

    • tiredness
    • stress or anxiety
    • too much alcohol
    • medication

    However it can also be a symptom of a more serious, underlying condition such as atherosclerosis (blocked arteries). This is a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries and is associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). Your arteries dilate when they carry blood to the penis during an erection, so erection problems can be a sign your arteries not functioning properly.

    Other conditions erectile dysfunction is associated with include:

    • diabetes
    • high blood pressure
    • hormone problems
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Erectile problems are very common and many men find that simple lifestyle changes can help.

    However, if you are experiencing it more often, it’s important to get checked out. Your consultant will probably ask about your lifestyle and relationships to see what could be causing it, as well as carrying out health checks, including taking your blood pressure and doing a genital examination.

    If they are concerned about cardiovascular disease, they may do a cardiovascular risk assessment. This calculates your risk of heart attack or stroke by looking at your medical history alongside your blood pressure and cholesterol results.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Treatment options for impotence will depend on the cause of the problem. It is often treated successfully with medication, such as:

    • PDE5 inhibitors — including Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil)
    • alprostadil — a hormonal treatment that can be taken as an injection or a pellet placed in the urethra

    Men who do not wish to take medication can use a vacuum pump, which can be very effective by boosting blood flow to the penis.

    If you are diagnosed with atherosclerosis, you will probably be prescribed medication such as aspirin to prevent blood clots developing and statins to help reduce cholesterol.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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