What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Posted by Dr. Michael White, Updated on April 20th, 2024
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Erectile dysfunction refers to a man's inability to generate or sustain an erection in a way that allows him to enjoy sexual activity. Erectile dysfunction has many causes and becomes more common as men grow older.

There are many effective treatments for erectile dysfunction to help men restore their sexual vitality and potency. Erectile dysfunction also refers to issues that hinder sexual drive as well as core sexual function.

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (commonly referred to just as “ED”) is always the symptom of another underlying problem.

The male erection is a hydraulic process tied to erotic desire and sensation. Anything that prevents a man from “getting hard” is a cause for erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction can even be rooted in psychology.

Some men, especially those that experience psychological trauma or depression, can have issues with sexual function.

The following are some other causes of erectile dysfunction:

  • Sleep issues
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse
  • Treatments for enlarged prostate
  • Prostate cancer treatment
  • Prescription drug side effects
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor cholesterol
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular disease and heart disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Hormone imbalance

As you can see, erectile dysfunction is associated with a variety of other health issues that can signal other potentially severe underlying health issues.

Many men put off treatment for erectile dysfunction because they don't consider the fact that healthy sexual function directly correlates to a healthy body. If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, you should see a doctor or ED specialist for evaluation.

Is Erectile Dysfunction a Disease?

Erectile dysfunction is not a disease but is often a symptom of diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Warning Signs of Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction doesn't necessarily have any warning signs, but often, the condition starts as a minor hindrance to sexual function and escalates over time, becoming more and more problematic until a man is ultimately unable to engage in happy and fruitful sexual activity.

It's important to recognize what a healthy libido means to you as a man, or as a couple, and take steps to improve sexual performance and vitality before the issues become severe.

Sometimes, improving sexual function can merely mean being more open and honest with your partner, along with making simple lifestyle changes to improve your overall health.

If more severe, it will likely require treatment from a medical professional.

Types of Erectile Dysfunction

There are ultimately four categorical causes for erectile dysfunction: psychological, cardiovascular, hormonal, and physiological. Not all that long ago, it was commonly believed that erectile dysfunction was primarily a psychological condition, caused by a lack of desire and arousal in men.

This is still often a factor in erectile dysfunction, but it's much rarer than initially believed.

Cardiovascular issues are the most common cause of erectile dysfunction. Sexual arousal stimulates changes in blood flow to the penis, which leads to erection and arousal.

Cardiovascular issues impair blood flow to the penis, making it more difficult or even impossible to generate a meaningful erection.

Physiological issues refer to structural issues that impair the process of generating an erection. Physical trauma can damage the nuts and bolts of the operation of arousal, preventing the hydraulic processes which cause the male erection.

Hormone imbalance and deficiency, specifically testosterone deficiency, can also lead to erectile dysfunction. Testosterone is the essential hormone in sexual desire and function (even in women!).

If you aren't producing enough testosterone, this reduces your desire to be psychologically aroused, and it impedes the normal process of erection generation.

Is Erectile Dysfunction Curable?

In the vast majority of cases, the erectile function can be restored, even if it can't always be outright cured. There are a variety of treatments for erectile dysfunction that can work for you.

In some cases, the normal sexual function can be restored entirely without the use of medication or therapy.

What Are Some Effective Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction?

Before starting any regimen for erectile dysfunction, it's important to talk to your partner and discuss any factors which may be hindering your desire and connection for one another.

Sometimes, stress and interpersonal issues can be the cause of your sexual dysfunction. You may even find that couples therapy, or just working on your relationship can do wonders for your sexual compatibility.

If your sexual issues are rooted in physiological function, there are some prescription medications and other treatments available to you.

Two of the most common and widespread, of course, are Viagra and Cialis, both of which are vasodilators that improve blood flow to the male sex organ. There are even pumps and other manual devices that can help.

How Can I Prevent Erectile Dysfunction Naturally?

Of course, the best way to improve sexual function in most cases is to improve the way that you treat your own body. As we mentioned earlier, obesity, smoking, alcohol, and other vices contribute heavily to erectile dysfunction.

Losing weight and going to the gym can be better than drugs for many patients, helping them improve blood flow, exercise capacity, and self-worth, all of which will enhance libido as well as sexual function.

Your doctor may even recommend combining an erectile dysfunction prescription with these natural lifestyle changes. In some cases, you can wean yourself off of Viagra and Cialis over time by improving your body's natural form and function.

Its always best to get to the heart of your underlying health issues, rather than merely treating the symptoms, whenever possible.

Hormone Replacement Therapy for the Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction

Going to a hormone clinic can also be a beneficial approach to erectile dysfunction treatment. If tests show that you are suffering from testosterone deficiency, there are testosterone creams, low-t injections, and testosterone patches, all of which can boost your testosterone levels back to a healthy baseline, so that your body can perform at an ideal level, not only about sexual function but overall.

Viagra for Erectile Dysfunction

Viagra (sildenafil) was the original prescription treatment specifically for erectile dysfunction. The drug was initially designed with the idea of improving blood flow for the treatment of cardiovascular disorders and is still sometimes used for patients suffering from high blood pressure.

Ultimately, however, it was discovered that Viagra was well-suited for the restoration of erectile function, making it one of the most well-known drugs in the world today.

Pros and Cons of Viagra

Viagra does what it claims to do quite well, and men across the globe have improved their sexual performance with Viagra. Of course, the drug isn't perfect, as no prescription indeed is.

It's important to be evaluated from head to toe by a doctor before starting on Viagra, because if you aren't healthy enough for sex, Viagra can be dangerous, especially if you have health issues that can be exacerbated by increased blood flow.

But honestly, for most patients, aside from those with problems with high blood pressure, Viagra is usually safe and has a pretty stellar approval rating from patients.

Cialis for Erectile Dysfunction

Cialis (tadalafil) and Viagra both produce the same results for patients but do so in different ways. Viagra is generally only useful for four or five hours, whereas Cialis enhances sexual function for around 36 hours.

Cialis is often prescribed for daily use to maintain sexual function day-to-day, whereas Viagra is generally used when a patient is ready and interested in engaging in sexual activity.

Levitra for Erectile Dysfunction

Levitra (vardenafil) is the most recent addition to the arsenal of erectile dysfunction treatments. It works very similarly to Viagra and often works for patients that don't respond adequately to Viagra. Levitra has also been shown to improve sexual performance for men that experience premature ejaculation.

Get Treatment for ED

If you have issues related to erectile dysfunction, it can impair your relationship with your partner, and modern treatments are incredibly useful.

Remember that sexual dysfunction is often a symptom of underlying health issues which can be more severe, so don't put off that trip to the doctor when it can not only improve your sexual health and your sex life but may also promote your overall wellness.

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