Impotence or erectile dysfunction (ED) is used to refer to the inability of a man to get or sustain an erection for a satisfactory sexual performance. ED problems are quite different from other erectile problems that may affect a male’s performance during intercourse, which may include low libido or sexual desire, quick ejaculation, or ejaculatory dysfunctions. This article focuses on the various possible casuses of erectile dysfunction.
For proper erection to occur and be sustained, you need:
- a nervous system able to control and conduct impulses in the spinal column, brain, and penis
- functional arteries in and around the corpora cavernosa
- normal levels of nitric oxide in penile arteries
- healthy fibrous tissues and smooth muscles in the corpora cavernosa
Erectile dysfunction occurs when one of these necessary factors are not present. These are many potential factors. Here, we discuss the most common.
Diabetes: Erectile dysfunction occurs more frequently in diabetic men than in non-diabetic men. Diabetes increases the risk of ED, because the disease narrows the arteries, thus reducing the supply of blood to the penis.
Diabetes also damages the autonomic and sensory nerves. If the amount of blood delivered to the penis is insufficient, it would not be to achieve or sustain an erection. Diabetic myopathy affects the control and compliance of muscle tissues and also affects the ability to sustain a penis erection.
Anxiety and Depression: Psychological factors such as stress, depression, guilt, low self-esteem, sexual performance anxiety, and post-traumatic stress are all possible erectile dysfunction causes. It is important to note that some medications that address these problems may also contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Cardiovascular Diseases: Atherosclerosis is a very common form of cardiovascular disease that causes a hardening and narrowing of the arteries. When the arteries leading to the heart get too narrow, they supply insufficient blood to the brain. If insufficient blood is supplied to the heart it would lead to a heart attack. If insufficient blood is supplied to the penis muscles, impotence will occur. The severity of the atherosclerosis affects the severity of the erectile dysfunction.
Hypertension: High blood pressure or hypertension also increases the risk of impotence. Essential hypertension is a type of hypertension that is not caused by any other disease. It is the most commonly occurring form of hypertension.
Hypertension increases the risk of ED, because it reduces the production of nitric oxide in the penile arteries. Hypertension also increases the atherosclerosis progression, which can also lead to impotence.
Damage of the Spinal Cord: Trauma, diseases, or surgical procedures can lead to damage of the nerve or spinal cord. Such injuries can lead to erectile dysfunction. The injury will disrupt the conduction of nerve impulses between the brain, spinal cord, and penis.
Cigarette Smoking: Smoking cigarettes aggravates atherosclerosis, which narrows and hardens the arteries. Abuse of harmful substances such as cocaine, marijuana, crystal meth, methamphetamines, heroin, and alcohol are also possible erectile dysfunction causes. Abuse of such substances, especially alcohol, can even lead to testicles shrinking (atophy).
Low Testosterone: Testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for sexual drive for men. It helps to maintain a healthy libido and healthy production of nitric oxide in the penis. A man with low testosterone levels will not only have a low libido, but could also have erectile dysfunction.
Medications: Some medications can lead to ED as a side effect. Such drugs include tranquilizers, antidepressants, appetite suppressants, beta-blockers, and antihistamines. To avoid impotence, it is important to discuss side effects with your doctor.
Advanced Age: As a man advances in age, he begins more susceptible to several erectile dysfunction causes. Diseases such as strokes, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, angina, and high blood pressure may weaken healthy tissues. Advanced age in itself can also compromise the strength and health of the corpora cavernosa tissues.