What age does erectile dysfunction occur?
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve and keep an erection that is firm enough for sexual activity. Erectile dysfunction is common, and has been shown to increase with age. In one study, erectile dysfunction was found to affect 9% of men aged 40-49 and increase to 53% of men aged 70-80.
Although erectile dysfunction affects older men more often, there are many other factors that influence whether or not a man experiences erectile dysfunction. In other terms, erectile dysfunction can affect men of all ages. If you think you might have erectile dysfunction, it is a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
There are multiple causes of erectile dysfunction. Your doctor may conduct a medical history (ask you questions), perform a physical or mental assessment, or order blood or urine tests to determine your cause of erectile dysfunction. Common causes include:
- Psychological: The brain plays a large part in initiating and keeping an erection. Depression, anxiety, and stress can all contribute to erectile dysfunction.
- Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can impair your body’s natural system for initiating and maintaining an erection. Examples of medical conditions that can lead to erectile dysfunction include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, multiple sclerosis, physical injuries, or low testosterone. In one study, men with diabetes were found to be three times more likely to have erectile dysfunction, compared with men who did not have diabetes2.
- Medications: Some medications can lead to erectile dysfunction by either reducing libido (sex drive), or by affecting the body’s ability to achieve and keep an erection in other ways. Common culprits are antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihistamines, and blood pressure medications.
- Lifestyle Factors: Alcoholism, smoking, and being overweight or obese can also contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction.
Is there a cure for erectile dysfunction?
The answer is yes, and no. In some cases, lifestyle changes like exercise, a change in diet, and weight loss, actually reversed or improved erectile dysfunction3. In other cases, such as that of physical injury or erectile dysfunction due to diabetes-induced nerve damage, lifestyle changes are unlikely to lead to improvement.
Although many cases of erectile dysfunction cannot be reversed or “cured”, there are effective options for medical treatment of erectile dysfunction available.
What treatments are available for erectile dysfunction?
Before selection of a treatment for erectile dysfunction, your doctor should ask about and take into account your individual preferences. The most common medical treatments for erectile dysfunction are oral medications. They fall within the same family, called PDE5 inhibitors, and include:
They work by relaxing the blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the penis, allowing you to achieve and keep an erection. Taking these medications will not automatically give you an erection; sexual arousal is still necessary to achieve an erection.
Though these medications are safe and work well for many people, there are cases in which they do not work or are not appropriate. In that case, there are alternative treatment options for erectile dysfunction:
- Vacuum Devices: These devices are hand-held or electric-powered pumps that use suction to draw blood flow to the penis and cause an erection. A tension ring is then placed at the base of the penis to maintain the erection.
- Alprostadil Suppository (Muse): The small pellet of medication is inserted into the urethra to induce an erection.
- Alprostadil self-injection (Caverject): A very fine needle is used to inject medication into the base or side of the penis to induce an erection.
- Testosterone replacement: Because low levels of the hormone testosterone can be a complicating factor in erectile dysfunction, it can be supplemented to improve erectile dysfunction.
- Penile implant: This treatment involves surgically implanting bendable or inflatable rods into the sides of the penis. This method is generally not used until other, less invasive methods are attempted first. However, individuals who undergo this option generally report high satisfaction4.
As with all medications and surgical procedures, side effects and complications can occur. Be sure to speak with your doctor or your pharmacist before starting any new medications to make sure that it is safe for you.