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Erection Problems (Erectile Dysfunction)


Topic Overview

What are erection problems?

A man has erection problems if he cannot get or keep an erection that is firm enough for him to have sex. Erection problems are also called erectile dysfunction or impotence.

Most men have erection problems every now and then. This is normal. These problems can occur at any age. But they are more common in older men, who often have other health problems. Treatment can help both older and younger men.

What causes erection problems?

Erection problems can have many causes. These include:

What are the symptoms?

The only symptom of an erection problem is being unable to get and keep an erection that is firm enough to have sex. But even with an erection problem, a man may still have sexual desire and be able to have an orgasm and to ejaculate.

How are erection problems diagnosed?

Your doctor can find out if you have an erection problem by asking questions about your health and doing a physical exam. Your doctor will want to know how often the problem happens. The exam, lab tests, and sometimes mental health tests can help find out the cause of the problem.

How are they treated?

Doctors usually start with lifestyle changes and medicines. They usually don't advise surgery or other treatments unless those first steps don't help.

Treatment can include:

  • Avoiding tobacco and drugs and limiting alcohol.
  • Talking about the issue with your partner, doing sensual exercises, and getting counseling.
  • Finding and then stopping medicines that may be causing the problem. In some cases you can take a different medicine that doesn't cause erection problems.
  • Taking prescription medicine that can help you get erections. These include pills such as sildenafil (for example, Viagra), tadalafil (for example, Cialis), and vardenafil (for example, Levitra). Check with your doctor to see if it is safe for you to take one of these medicines with your other medicines. These pills can be dangerous if you have heart disease that requires you to take nitroglycerin or other medicines that contain nitrates.
  • Taking medicines and getting counseling for depression or anxiety.
  • Using vacuum devices or getting shots of medicine into the penis.
  • Having surgery to place an implant in the penis.

Can you prevent erection problems?

Erection problems are most often caused by a physical problem. So it's important to eat healthy foods and get enough exercise to help you stay in good health.

To reduce your risk of having an erection problem, don't smoke, drink too much alcohol, or use illegal drugs.

You may be able to avoid erection problems related to anxiety and stress by talking with your partner about your concerns. This may help you relax.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about erection problems:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

Living with erectile dysfunction:

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