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Erectile Dysfunction: The Main Causes

Since an erection requires a precise sequence of events, erectile dysfunction can occur when any of those events are disrupted. The sequence includes nerve impulses in the brain, spinal column and area around the penis. The sequence also includes the response in muscles, fibrous tissues, veins and arteries in and near the corpora cavernosa. Viagra, Cialis and Levitra can assist in overcoming many of these symptoms because erectile dysfunction is a treatable condition.

The Two Types of Erectile Dysfunction:

Total erectile dysfunction - when a man has never had an orgasm during sex. This can happen if the male sex organs were damaged at an early age. This condition is known as primary erectile dysfunction.

Partial erectile dysfunction - when a man can sometimes achieve and keep an erection or a partial erection or is only impotent in certain situations. This condition is also known as secondary erectile dysfunction.

The Two Main Causes of Erectile Dysfunction:

Physical illness - most causes of erectile dysfunction are physical. There are many diseases that interfere with the functioning of the penis, either by reducing blood flow or affecting the nerves. Such diseases include heart and blood vessel diseases, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and alcoholism.

When erectile dysfunction is caused by a physical illness, it usually develops slowly. Certain prescription drugs like sedatives, blood pressure medication and most narcotics can also cause erectile dysfunction as a side effect.

Psychological factors - a man's sexual drive or performance can be affected by stress; whether it is problems at work, relationship problems or financial worries. Psychiatric conditions including depression or anxious emotions about poor sexual performance, can often result in a failed erection. Only one in ten cases of erectile dysfunction are caused by psychological factors.


The occasional failure to get or keep an erection should not be cause for concern. It can be as simple as not being sufficiently attracted to the person you are having sex with. Some relationships need a change from their routine, sometimes sexual experimentation can help an erection occur normally. Occasional erectile dysfunction is normal and common causes include drunkenness, anxiety and tiredness. A known fact is that one of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction in middle-aged men is a lack of sleep.

Common Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

The most common cause of erectile dysfunction caused by physical damage is to nerves, arteries, smooth muscles and fibrous tissues. Other diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, atherosclerosis, vascular disease and neurologic disease account for about 70 percent of erectile dysfunction cases.

Between 35 and 50 percent of men who suffer from diabetes, experience erectile dysfunction due to the damage of small nerves and blood vessels over time. This is where Viagra, Cialis and Levitra can be of great benefit, providing effective relief.

Any male who undergoes radical surgery, especially prostate surgery for cancer or any radiation treatment, can injure nerves and arteries near the penis, causing erectile dysfunction. Injury to the spinal cord, prostate, bladder can lead to erectile dysfunction by damaging nerves, smooth muscles, arteries, and fibrous tissues of the corpora cavernosa.

Certain pharmaceutical medications like blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants, tranquilizers, appetite suppressants and ulcer drugs like cimetidine, can produce erectile dysfunction as a side effect.

Hardening of the arteries, where fat builds up on the inside of blood vessels, is a condition that impairs blood flow to the penis, making them narrow and more rigid. Men with high cholesterol levels have an 80% increased risk of erection problems.

Experts believe that psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, guilt, depression, low self-esteem and fear of sexual failure causes up to 20 percent of erectile dysfunction cases. Up to nine out of ten men suffering from depression also have problems with their erections and have erectile dysfunction.

Spinal cord injury and conditions like Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and spina bifida can also be potential causes of erectile dysfunction.

Hormone imbalances due to low levels of the male hormone testosterone or elevated levels of prolactin, which is produced by the pituitary gland, can also cause erectile dysfunction.

Alcohol and Erectile Dysfunction

Alcohol is regarded as a high risk factor for erectile dysfunction. It was a long-held observation that acute alcohol intoxication increases sexual desire but also inhibits sexual performance. The scientific explanation is that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, but it also leads to a lack of inhibition and increases sexual desire. Studies have documented the harmful effects of chronic alcohol consumption on sexual functioning and erectile dysfunction and the chronic cytotoxic effects of alcohol on general health, hepatic function and immune function.

Erectile Dysfunction and Hypertension

The risk factors for erectile dysfunction are also risk factors for coronary artery disease. These factors include diabetes, smoking, lipid abnormalities (low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), hypertension, obesity and lack of physical activity. Hypertension and the effect of phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors (sildenafil, vardenafil and tadalafil) on systemic arterial blood pressure (BP), indicates contraindications. Hypertension is often treated with nitrate-based drugs, which are dangerously incompatible with PDE-5 inhibitors.


There are medical treatments for erectile dysfunction, which are effective for approximately 70% of all men. By far the most popular erectile dysfuntion medications to treat the condition are Viagra, Cialis or Levitra.

About the Author

has over 20 years experience as a sexual health medical practitioner and has specific expertise in male sexual dysfunction.