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Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is defined as "the inability of the male to achieve an erect penis as part of the overall multifaceted process of male sexual function." In the past, ED was regarded as the inability to get and/or keep an erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse. The current definition de-emphasizes intercourse as the main aspect of sexual life and gives equal importance to other aspects of male sexual behavior.

ED can become present in most men somewhere between the ages of 35 and 65.

What Isn't ED

Inability to have Repeated Intercourse - Some people believe ED means that they cannot have a second episode of vaginal intercourse in one evening. While it is possible when you are young, most men usually only have one episode of vaginal intercourse per 24-48 hours.

Premature Ejaculation - Premature or early ejaculation, or ejaculation that happens almost immediately upon penetration is different from ED.

Lack of Desire - A lack of sexual desire should not be confused with ED. A lack of sexual desire is known as low libido.

Causes of ED

Vascular Disease - It is believed that ED is caused by diseases that affect the blood vessels/circulatory system (also known as the vascular system) such as:

Lifestyle - Lifestyle and behavioral problems such as cigarette smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse, which are associated with cardiovascular disease, also contribute to ED.

Cancer Treatment - In other cases, impotence can be caused by hormone imbalance brought on by prostate surgery or radiation therapy for prostate cancer or other types of surgery for cancer of the pelvis.

Psychological Issues - Occasionally, psychological issues can be associated with erectile dysfunction. Certainly stress in the marriage or on the job, and other types of issues can cause ED. Depression may also be associated with or cause ED.

Injuries and Trauma - On rare occasions, trauma or injuries to the perineum or crotch area can cause ED. There have been suggestions that men who are chronic or avid bicycle riders can become impotent from this activity. Some manufacturers have tried to respond with more "user friendly" seats for male bike riders, although their effectiveness has not been established.

This article was originally authored by Allen Seftel, MD, formerly of Case Western Reserve University, and published on NetWellness with permission.

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Last Reviewed: Jul 03, 2010

Ahmad  Hamidinia, MD Ahmad Hamidinia, MD
Formerly, Professor of Clinical Surgery
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati