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Impotence, also known as erectile dysfunction, is the inability to get or keep an erection. It can happen to men at any age and is never considered a normal finding. The risk for impotence can increase with age, but age does not cause impotence. Rather, it’s caused by underlying problems. Certain medical conditions, medications, trauma, and outside influences can contribute to impotence.
The main symptom of impotence is the inability to achieve or sustain an erection. This is temporary in most cases. However, impotence can have a negative effect on sex life. This happens when a man is unable to maintain an erection long enough to continue sexual intercourse. Psychological symptoms may occur if a man feels he isn’t satisfying his partner. These symptoms include low self-esteem and depression. These can cause impotence to become worse.
In some cases, an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, may cause impotence. The symptoms of the condition may be present along with impotence.
All men will experience impotence at some point in their life. It may result from a physical cause or a psychological cause. Sometimes, both physical and psychological issues can cause impotence.
The most common causes include:
Although impotence can affect younger men, it’s more prevalent in middle-aged and older adult men. Researchers believe that stress plays a major role in age-related impotence cases.
One of the most common age-related causes of impotence is atherosclerosis. This condition is caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries. The buildup makes it difficult for blood to flow to the rest of the body. The lack of blood flow to the penis can cause impotence. This is why impotence is the number one sign of atherosclerosis in men.
Other physical causes for impotence in older adult men include:
Aside from physical causes, various psychological issues can cause impotence in middle-aged and older adult men. These may include:
Your doctor may be able to diagnose impotence by taking a medical history and performing a physical examination. Make sure to discuss any medical conditions that you may have with your doctor. Sharing your medical history with your doctor can help them determine the cause of your impotence. It’s also important to let your doctor know if you’re taking any medication. Tell them the name of the medication, how much you take, and when you began taking it. Also notify your doctor if you first experienced impotence after taking a certain medication.
During the physical examination, your doctor will visually inspect your penis for any external causes for your impotence. External causes can include trauma or lesions from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
If your doctor suspects there’s an underlying cause to your condition, they will perform various tests. For example, your doctor will order a blood test to check your blood glucose levels. This will show them if diabetes is to blame. Other tests may include:
Once the underlying cause for impotence is treated, the impotence usually subsides. If needed, your doctor will discuss which medication is right for you. There are several oral medications that can help treat impotence. These include sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis). They’re designed to help men achieve or maintain an erection. However, men with serious medical conditions, such as heart disease, can’t take these medications. Men who are taking certain medications should also avoid them.
Your doctor may suggest other treatment options if you can’t take oral medications for impotence. These alternatives include mechanical aids, such as a penis pump or a penile implant. Your doctor will explain how to use these devices.
Impotence may also be a result of lifestyle choices, so you may want to consider making changes to your lifestyle. These changes include:
Aside from helping to prevent impotence, these lifestyle adjustments can also reduce the risk of future health complications.
Stress relief methods, such as meditation and therapy, may also be useful in treating impotence caused by stress. Make sure you get plenty of sleep and exercise to reverse stress-related impotence.
Written by: April Kahn
Medically reviewed on: May 04, 2016: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine
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