Erectile Dysfunction- Symptoms, Causes, Treatments and More

Dr. Raghu Ganjam | February 06, 2021

Erectile dysfunction or ED is the most common sexual health problem faced by men. Many men face issues with achieving satisfactory erection from time to time, like during stress or emotional issues. But, when it becomes progressive and regular, then you should consider treatment options.

It is a treatable medical condition, and various treatment options are available to overcome erectile dysfunction. 

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is generally defined as a persistent inability to achieve and maintain a penile erection to have satisfactory sexual performance. 

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to keep the erection firm during intercourse. During sexual intercourse, nerves release chemicals that increase blood flow to the penis. The tissues around the penis trap the blood, causing an erection. Any abnormality in blood flow, nerve function, or hormones can lead to erectile dysfunction. 

Though these problems can occur at any age, aging and other health issues can also be the reason for erectile dysfunction. It can be effectively treated at almost any age.


The only symptom of erectile dysfunction is the inability to keep the erection to have sex. It can lead to low self-esteem and depression. 

Research studies suggest that erectile dysfunction can be the result of vascular disease.. This condition may lead to cardiovascular diseases and is mostly asymptomatic (1). Erectile dysfunction that is progressive and is affecting your quality of life should be treated. Treatment not only solves your erection problem, but it may also improve your circulatory health.

Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction can be due to physical or psychological causes. Also, it can be a sign of an underlying health condition. Finding the cause and getting treated is a vital step you should take to solve this health issue.

Common Physical Causes:

  • A physical condition such as an injury to nerves or vessels affecting the blood supply to the penis.
  • Underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, anxiety, and depression. 
  • A side effect of certain medications or radiation therapy.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.

Psychological causes:

If there is no underlying medical condition or anatomical issue, then erectile dysfunction can be the result of psychological problems, such as:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress at work or home
  • Fear of sexual performance
  • Relationship conflicts

A single factor or many factors together can cause erectile dysfunction. Consulting a health professional can help you to find the right cause. 

Risk Factors

There are some risk factors, which can increase your chances of developing erectile dysfunction. Any condition or injury that affects your blood flow and circulation can cause erectile dysfunction.

Such risk factors include;

  • Increasing age
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Medications advised for depression and blood pressure
  • Psychological problems like anxiety and depression

Other risk factors for erectile dysfunction include obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Obesity, even in the absence of other risk factors, increases the possibility of erectile dysfunction. It is also linked to psychological parameters like depression, low self-esteem, and performance anxiety (2).


When it comes to the treatment part, there are various treatments available for erectile dysfunction.  

In the absence of a specific correctable cause, the management of erectile dysfunction is mostly observational and performed in a stepwise manner. This means initial treatment is based on lifestyle modification followed by first-line therapies using medications and vacuum erection devices (VEDs). The second line of treatment includes using penile suppositories and self-injections. Finally, if these do not resolve the problem, surgical treatment is recommended.

Lifestyle Modification

Lifestyle modification plays a significant role in managing erectile dysfunction, especially in young patients. Discussing with a health professional can help you understand certain lifestyle factors that might affect your condition. 

Studies suggest that following a 30-minute moderate-intensity exercise every day and a healthy diet can improve erectile dysfunction outcomes (3). The research also suggests that smoking has a direct effect on erectile dysfunction and that smoking cessation can improve the condition. 

Chronic use of alcohol can have lasting effects on the liver, leading to low levels of testosterone and increased estrogen levels, both of which contribute to erectile dysfunction (4). Reducing your alcohol consumption may improve your condition. 

Lifestyle modification can help you get rid of risk factors, and when combined with any erectile dysfunction treatments, it can bring the needed outcome.


Certain medications can help you to relieve the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. PDE5 inhibitors or Oral phosphodiesterase inhibitors such as sildenafil, vardenafil, tadalafil, and avanafil are used mainly to manage erectile dysfunction. These drugs inhibit PDE5 that leads to smooth muscle relaxation and the promotion of an erection (5). 

The Sildenafil is recommended in the dosage of 50 mg administered orally one hour prior to sexual activity. The maximum dosage permitted is 100 mg. According to the American Urological Association Panel, sildenafil appears to meet the requirements for treating erectile dysfunction (6). 

These medications also regulate blood circulation to your penis, which helps in achieving an erection. Generally, it is advised to take pills 30 to 60 minutes before sex.

Some Recommended Exercises

Specific exercises can also help you to overcome erectile dysfunction.

  • Kegel exercises - Pelvic floor exercises should be considered as a first-line approach for men seeking a long-term solution for their erectile dysfunction (8). 
  • Aerobic exercises - Moderate to intense exercise is not only good for your overall health but also helps with erectile dysfunction (9). 
  • Yoga - Anxiety and stress are some of the major causes of erectile dysfunction. Yoga helps you to relax your mind and body, thus reduces the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. 


Supplements are effective and affordable treatment options for erectile dysfunction. Though these supplements are not evaluated for their effectiveness, some herbal supplements are showing promising results. Choosing a reliable brand is essential before using any such supplements. Discuss with your doctor who can recommend a reputable brand for you. Some supplements may carry potential side effects; hence doctor recommendation is mandatory. 

Online Consultation

Online consultation with your doctor can be a great way to discuss your problems associated with erectile dysfunction. It is a safe and secure method where you can talk with ease to find the cause and treatment option for your condition. Online consultations provide secure online bookings and confidential conversations with your doctor. 

If you are suffering from erectile dysfunction and willing to get evaluated for treatment from a skilled doctor, click here. Our U.S. licensed physician will review your treatment request, follow up, and, if suitable, write a prescription.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I know my erectile dysfunction is due to stress or is it a physical problem?

Most of the time, there is an underlying physical cause for erectile dysfunction. For many patients, it is both physical and emotional problems that lead to erectile dysfunction. It is not possible to understand the real cause without consulting a doctor.

2. Is it possible that my anxiety is worsening my condition?

The mind plays a significant role in many of our health issues. Your anxiety about erection can worsen the condition. This type of erectile dysfunction is called performance anxiety and can be treated by counseling and medication.

3. Are there any side effects of using medication for treating ED?

You may experience some minor side effects like headache, stomach upset, palpitations, and facial blushing (10). Some people also experienced temporary vision disturbances. In any such adverse reaction, consult your doctor. These can rarely cause painful prolonged erection that may need immediate medical attention. These medication cannot be taken with certain heart medications such as nitroglycerin and may be contraindicated in people with certain heart conditions.

4. What lifestyle changes can help me to overcome this problem?

Lifestyle changes combined with the medical approach can greatly benefit you to improve your condition. These lifestyle changes include consuming a healthy diet, regular exercise, reduced alcohol consumption, and smoking cessation.

5. When should I see a doctor?

If your erectile dysfunction is progressing and has started disturbing your quality of life by creating stress, then you should seek medical help. It can be a symptom of other potential health problems that need to be addressed; hence its better to get yourself evaluated.

Final Words

Erectile dysfunction is a common disorder that affects the quality of life of many patients. It is a treatable condition, and various treatment options and medications are available for the same. 

Your treatment for erectile dysfunction depends on several factors like your age, underlying health condition, and the severity of your problem. Consulting a health professional is extremely important in treating this condition. 

Also, it is essential to understand that erectile dysfunction is a common condition and can affect anyone. Discuss with your doctor as early as possible to get the right treatment and also, to rule out any underlying serious health issue.

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