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When men become sexually aroused, hormones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels all work with one another to create an erection. Nerve signals, sent from the brain to the penis, stimulate muscles to relax. This, in turn, allows blood to flow to the tissue in the penis. Once the blood fills the penis and an erection is achieved, the blood vessels to the penis close off so that the erection is maintained. Following sexual arousal, the veins to the penis again open up, allowing the blood to leave.
At some point in a man’s life, he may have difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection. Erection problems occur when you can’t achieve or maintain an erection that’s firm enough to have sexual intercourse. For most men, this problem occurs occasionally and isn’t a serious issue. However, if you are unable to achieve an erection one-quarter of the time or more, you may have a health problem that requires medical attention. Erection problems are also known as:
The causes of erection problems can be physical, psychological, or a combination of the two. Physical causes of erection problems are more common in older men. They occur because of disorders that can affect the nerves and blood vessels responsible for causing an erection.
Erection problems can also be due to psychological causes. Psychological issues can distract a man of any age from becoming aroused and include:
If you develop erection problems that get worse over time, you should call your doctor. You should also call your doctor if erection problems develop or worsen after injury or prostate surgery. If you experience erection problems along with other symptoms, such as lower back pain or abdominal pain, make a doctor’s appointment.
You should also talk to your doctor if you believe a new medication is causing your erection problems. Don’t stop taking your medication before talking to your doctor.
Many of the physical causes of erection problems are related to lifestyle choices. You may want to consider the following lifestyle changes:
If changes in your lifestyle don’t reduce your symptoms, you will need to contact your doctor to identify the cause of your erection problems. Your doctor will examine your penis and rectum as well as your nervous system function. Your doctor will also ask you about current health problems and when your symptoms began.
In an effort to accurately diagnose the cause of your erection problems, your doctor may also order tests that include:
Once your doctor determines the cause of your erection problem, they will provide appropriate treatment. Treatment can include addressing the underlying health problem and providing intervention to reduce erection problems.
Options for treating erection problems may include:
The complications associated with erection problems are significant and can impact your quality of life. If you experience erection problems, you may also experience:
To prevent erection problems, you should engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly. If you have a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, you should also work with your doctor to manage your symptoms. If you experience any mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, you should also seek treatment.
Written by: Darla Burke
Published on: Sep 26, 2015
Medically reviewed on: Jan 14, 2016: Mark R Laflamme, MD
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