Many men will experience occasional situations in which they are unable to get and maintain an erection for sexual intercourse. This is quite normal and can be caused by a number of factors such as stress, tiredness, anxiety or having too much alcohol.
However, if you regularly have difficultly trying to achieve an erection for sex, then you may have erectile dysfunction. This is quite a common condition for men over the age of 40. According to the British Association of Urological Surgeons, erectile dysfunction affects half of men between 40 and 70 years old.
Erectile dysfunction can be caused by physical or psychological factors, or even a combination of both.
Physical Factors that Cause Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction will usually be caused by physical factors in older men. These factors will affect the nerves and blood vessels responsible for causing an erection.
These physical factors can include:
- Hardening of the arteries
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Liver or kidney disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson's disease
Erectile Dysfunction can also be the result of taking a particular medicine or using certain substances. While it's widely known that alcohol, smoking and illegal substances can affect the quality of your erections, medicines prescribed by your doctor or bought over-the-counter are overlooked culprits of erectile dysfunction.
These medicines can range from commonly used antihistamines, used for hayfever, to prescription pain relief and antidepressants. If you suspect a medicine might be causing your erectile dysfunction, you should speak to your doctor for practical advice. Never stop taking a medicine which has been prescribed to you, unless your doctor has told you that it is safe to do so.
Surgery, such as prostatectomy (the partial or total surgical removal of the prostate), can also cause erectile dysfunction to develop afterwards. Erectile dysfunction caused by prostate surgery can last from between 3 months to 3 years, according to Cancer Research UK.
Psychological Factors that Cause Erectile Dysfunction
In younger men, erectile dysfunction can commonly be caused by psychological factors.
These psychological factors can include:
- Being scared that you can't get or maintain an erection
- Conflict in a relationship
- Emotional distress
When To See Your GP About Erectile Dysfunction?
If you're concerned about your erectile dysfunction and want to seek treatment, then you should make an appointment with your GP.
At your medical appointment, your practitioner will ask you about your lifestyle and your relationships, then carry out basic health checks on your blood pressure and weight. They may also perform an examination of your genitals to determine whether your erectile dysfunction may be caused by any obvious physical factors.
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Erectile Dysfunction
The treatment for your erectile dysfunction will depend on what is causing the condition. If, for example, high blood pressure is causing your erectile dysfunction, then your GP may recommend taking medicine to lower it. They may also ask you to make some lifestyle changes, such as losing weight if you are obese, eating a healthy diet and exercising more.
Psychological Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction
If your erectile dysfunction is caused by psychological factors, then your GP may recommend that you go to counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to treat your underlying conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
Medicine to treat Erectile Dysfunction
Sildenafil, sold as Viagra, is a very common medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction and can be bought without a prescription. It's important to note that taking sildenafil (Viagra) itself will not give you an erection. You will need to already be sexually aroused for sildenafil to take effect, and it will help you get an erection by increasing blood flow to your penis.
According to the NHS, at least two-thirds of men experienced improved erections after taking sildenafil. You can buy Viagra in any pharmacy or make use of an online pharmacy such as Prescription Doctor to buy Viagra online instead. An online pharmacy will save you a lot of time, as you can simply order medicine online and make use of discreet next-day delivery.