Man with doctor

When you have difficulty getting an erection, you may wonder if something is wrong. Occasional problems in the bedroom are not always cause for concern. Discover the symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED), as well as signs you should see your doctor.

How Do You Know You Have Erectile Dysfunction?

Erection problems are common. All men have trouble getting or keeping an erection now and then. Stress, relationship problems, and too much alcohol can lead to occasional erection problems.

You may have ED if you:

  • Can’t get an erection every time you want to have sex.
  • Can get an erection, but it doesn’t last long enough to have sex.
  • Can never get an erection.

Fortunately, doctors can often treat ED. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s normal when it comes to erections?

A problem in the bedroom now and then is normal — and usually temporary. But if you’re unable to get or keep an erection on a regular basis, you might have ED.

If so, you’re not alone. ED affects as many as 30 million men in the United States.

Can I test myself for erectile dysfunction?

There’s no definitive test for ED at home. If you’re concerned about erection problems, you should see your regular doctor or a urologist. You may have other health issues.

Signs and Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction

Doctors define ED as consistent trouble getting or keeping an erection.

Other signs and symptoms of ED:

  • Your erection problems are getting worse as time goes on.
  • You’re frequently anxious about your erection problems.
  • Your erection problems are causing stress in your relationship.

It’s important to talk to a doctor about ED. It’s a problem that can damage your self-esteem and your intimate relationships. ED can also be a sign of more significant health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

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What Are the Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction?

Many factors can cause ED. You’re more likely to experience ED if you:

  • Are over age 50.
  • Have diabetes.
  • Have high blood pressure.
  • Smoke.
  • Have high cholesterol.
  • Use illegal drugs.
  • Drink too much alcohol.
  • Are obese.
  • Don’t exercise.
  • Have had pelvic surgery, including prostate surgery.
  • Have an enlarged prostate.
  • Have Peyronie’s disease.

Physical causes of erectile dysfunction

Your ED may stem from one of these health problems:

  • Heart disease or smoking have reduced blood flow to the penis.
  • Diabetes has caused blood vessel or nerve damage to the penis.
  • You are experiencing side effects from other treatments, such as radiation for cancer.

Emotional causes of erectile dysfunction

Although ED usually has physical roots, you shouldn’t ignore possible emotional causes. The body and the brain work together, especially when it comes to sex. Worry and anxiety about ED can lead to more ED, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Emotional triggers might include:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Feeling stressed at work.
  • Relationship problems.
  • Financial problems.
  • Feeling self-conscious about your performance.

When Should I Talk to My Doctor?

It’s understandable to feel nervous about going to the doctor for ED. But there’s no need for embarrassment.

Your doctor has heard every question you’re about to ask. In fact, the Urology Care Foundation says that ED is the most common sex problem men report to their doctors.

Here are some questions to ask your doctor:

  • What caused my ED?
  • Is there any way to tell if it’s mental, not physical?
  • Do I need to see a specialist?
  • Will you refer me to a counselor?
  • What treatment do you suggest?
  • What should I do if medicine doesn’t work?
  • Are there any side effects to the treatment?
  • Do I need further tests?
  • Could something else be wrong with me?

Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction

There are many safe and effective treatments for ED.

Medicine

Your doctor can prescribe pills that will help you get and maintain an erection. You’ve probably heard their brand names: Viagra, Cialis, Levitra. You take them about an hour before sex.

Medical procedures

Vacuum devices, penile implants, and penile injection therapy are other options.

Pelvic floor exercises

Men can get stronger erections by doing pelvic floor exercises. Also called Kegels, these simple exercises consist of squeezing and releasing the muscles of the pelvic floor.

Counseling

If the root cause of your ED is emotional, you and your partner might benefit from counseling.

Lifestyle changes

For many men, some simple lifestyle tweaks are enough to improve their ED. You can try:

  • Losing weight.
  • Eating a healthier diet.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Developing good sleep habits.

In general, being healthier overall leads to a healthier sex life.

Sources

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction, Link

Urology Care Foundation, What Is Erectile Dysfunction? Link

Medical News Today, What's to Know About Erectile Dysfunction? Link

American Academy of Family Physicians, What Is Erectile Dysfunction? Link

About Urology

The UPMC Department of Urology offers a wide variety of specialized care for diseases of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs. We have a multifaceted team of physicians and researchers working together to provide the best care to both children and adults. Our team is nationally renowned for expertise in highly specialized technologies and minimally invasive surgical techniques. U.S. News & World Report ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside among the best hospitals in the country for urological care.