Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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Erectile dysfunction is a common condition that affects millions of men around the world. However, because it is a sensitive topic, many find it difficult to talk to their doctor or healthcare provider about it. If you have questions about this condition, this guide is for you. It sheds light on everything you need to know: from the causes of ED and its symptoms to the treatment options. By understanding the causes and symptoms and exploring the available treatment options, you can take control of your sexual health and improve your overall quality of life. Let’s get started.

What Is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

Erectile dysfunction is a serious condition that affects about 150 million men around the world. It is characterized by a man’s inability to achieve and maintain an erection long enough for intercourse. Although it can happen to any man from time to time as a result of stress, it becomes a problem when it occurs too frequent. It is important to treat this condition as soon as it is noticed, as it can cause bigger problems such as low self-esteem, stress, and strain in relationships [1].

Many believe that ED is a normal part of aging, but that is far from the case. If you or your partner is having issues with achieving and maintaining an erection, it is important to consult a doctor to find out the cause and get the best treatment option.

Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms

The most common and visible symptoms of ED are trouble getting an erection and/or trouble maintaining it long enough to engage in penetrative sex. Besides, below are several sexual disorders that may be associated with impotence [2]:

  • premature ejaculation;
  • delayed ejaculation;
  • anorgasmia – the inability to reach orgasm even after ample stimulation.

ED can cause relationship issues or even serve as a gateway to other health problems. It can cause frustration and ultimately begin to affect other aspects of a man’s life, including work, finances, etc. If you experience one or more of the symptoms listed above from time to time, it may be OK to wait it out. However, it would be best to talk with a doctor if they become too frequent.

Most Common Causes of ED

Erections arise through a series of complex processes that involve the brain, hormones, nerves, emotions, and blood vessels. Consequently, the cause of ED can stem from any of these areas.

Generally, the leading causes of ED are split into 2 types: physical causes and psychological causes. Physical causes such as high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, low testosterone, sleep disorders, and multiple sclerosis, among other health conditions, can affect one of the processes involved in erection and ultimately give rise to ED [3].

On the other hand, psychological causes of ED include:

  • depression;
  • stress;
  • anxiety;
  • relationship problems.

Depression, anxiety, and stress are known to cause imbalances in brain chemicals involved in achieving and maintaining an erection [4]. For example, stress can affect a man’s erections temporarily, and fear of underperforming in bed can cause anxiety. The resulting anxiety may then worsen his erectile function, going on in a vicious cycle.

Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosis

Diagnosis for ED typically involves a combination of different types of tests, including physical examination, medical history, laboratory tests, etc. A doctor may conduct these tests in no specific order. However, in some cases, they may check you in this order [3]:

  1. Medical history: Your doctor will ask questions about past illnesses, medications you are taking or have used in the past, and your lifestyle. Generally, they will ask you about your medical history.
  2. Physical examination: If your doctor is unable to reach any conclusion based on the answers you provide, they may need to examine your penis and testicles and even conduct a rectal exam to evaluate your prostate. Basically, the doctor will be checking for signs of hormonal imbalance or physical abnormalities.
  3. Laboratory tests: In some cases, a doctor may recommend carrying out a blood test to determine blood sugar levels and a urine test to see if the problem is related to kidney disease or diabetes.
  4. Psychological evaluation: If the doctor doesn’t find any physical health problem, they refer you to a mental health professional to help determine if the condition is linked to psychological problems such as stress, anxiety, or depression.
  5. Imaging tests: Some doctors will carry out imaging tests such as ultrasound to observe and evaluate blood flow to the penis.

Some medications can cause ED in certain individuals. If your doctor discovers (through your medical history) that your case of ED is caused by a medication you are taking, they may recommend a different dose or ask you to stop taking it altogether.

Basic Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction

ED is a treatable condition, and the good news is that there are many effective options available. Below are some of the main treatments for erectile dysfunction [2].

Psychotherapeutic Treatment

This is a type of therapy that is usually aimed at addressing the psychological factors responsible for a man’s ED. It involves talking with a mental health expert who may conduct one of several therapies available for the procedure, depending on the degree of the condition. The common types available include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoanalysis, couples therapy, and sex therapy.

Oral Medications

This is one of the most common treatment options doctors recommend for ED. The medications work by increasing blood flow to the penis upon sexual stimulation. There are 4 main medications available: sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn), tadalafil (Cialis), and avanafil (Stendra), with sildenafil being the most popularly used one.

Many men prefer taking oral medications for ED because they can get them without going through physical examination, which a vast majority find embarrassing. For instance, instead of seeing a doctor, many men simply buy sildenafil online in the UK, US, or wherever they are residing. While the drugs are classified as prescription-only meds, some overseas vendors sell them without a prescription. Note that it is important to always consult a doctor before taking any medication.

Vacuum Erection Device

In this type of treatment, a specially designed device is used to pump blood to the penis to bring about an erection. The pump comes with a constriction ring that is rolled to the base of the penis to retain the blood inside the penis, keeping it erect long enough for penetrative sex. In most cases, doctors only recommend this option to individuals who find oral medication and other relatively simple options ineffective.

Erectile Dysfunction Surgery

Surgery is usually the last resort on the list of ED treatment options. Doctors typically only recommend it in situations in which oral medication, psychotherapy, and the use of vacuum pumps fail to work. There are 2 types of surgery that can be done: implants and vascular reconstruction.

While implant surgery involves the surgeon placing an inflatable or malleable device to help with the erection, in vascular surgery, the surgeon locates and repairs arteries that may be blocked. If your doctor recommends this option, be sure to talk about it extensively to decide whether you’re OK with the possible benefits and risks of complications.


Erectile dysfunction affects many men worldwide, so if you or your partner has it, you’re not alone. While it can be a source of embarrassment for some, it is important to know that there are several treatment options available. Oral medications are one of the most common and easily accessible ways to treat impotence. They have a high success rate, and brands such as Viagra have helped countless men achieve better erections and improve sexual performance.

If you suspect you have ED, be sure to consult your doctor as soon as you can. Understand that seeking care can help you improve your sexual function, strengthen the bond in your relationship, and achieve a better quality of life. 


  1. Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment. Retrieved: March 14, 2023.
  2. Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Written by By The Healthline Editorial Team. Medically reviewed by Roger Bielinski, MD, Urology. Retrieved: March 14, 2023.
  3. Erectile Dysfunction – Symptoms and Causes. Retrieved: March 14, 2023.
  4. The Link Between Depression and Erectile Dysfunction. Retrieved: March 14, 2023.

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