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Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is the inability of a man to have an erection hard enough to have sexual intercourse. It can also be known as impotence.
It is not unusual for this to happen to a man on occasion, but frequent ED can be a sign of a bigger medical problem that needs attention. ED can also lead to complications in a man’s life all on its own.
An estimated 15 to 30 million men are affected by erectile dysfunction, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). It’s important to remember that erectile dysfunction is not tied to age. While it may not be as easy at an older age to get an erection, ED is not an unavoidable part of growing old.
An erection is the result of increased blood flow into the penis during sexual stimulation. When a man becomes sexually excited, muscles in the penis relax, allowing an increased blood flow through several arteries. This blood fills sinuses (cavities) in the penis, putting pressure on the several veins inside it. This means more blood is flowing in than is flowing out, and the penis fills and grows rigid. Erectile dysfunction is caused by an interruption in this process.
The potential culprits are numerous, but disease, other health issues, physical injuries, drug and/or alcohol use, stress, anxiety, or other mental health issues are all possible suspects or contributing factors. They could work singly or in combination.
Though there are a number of causes of ED, there are also a number of available treatments ranging from ingesting a pill or making lifestyle changes to more complex solutions like surgery or mechanically-induced erections.
Someone looking for treatment for erectile dysfunction should be careful since there are many scams that prey on ED sufferers. Additionally, some potential treatments still lack strong scientific evidence as to their effectiveness and may even be dangerous to some users.
If you are concerned that you may be suffering from erectile dysfunction, visit your doctor and talk candidly about your issue during the appointment. Your doctor can help you determine the cause of your ED and the best treatment path for you.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed by Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH
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