Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a distinct medical condition. But it can also serve as a clue that some other disease is lurking, silent and undetected.
One common reason men develop erectile dysfunction is that they have damaged arteries. To achieve an erection, your brain sends signals that cause certain changes to occur to tissue in the penis. As a result, blood flows into the penis and gets trapped, causing it to expand and become firm. If you have arteries that have become hardened and full of fat and other gunk, you may not have adequate blood flow to the penis, which can cause erectile dysfunction.
But that's only the start of the bad news. Clogged arteries are the hallmark of cardiovascular disease, so problems in the bedroom may be a warning that you're a candidate for a heart attack. Other diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can damage the arteries and cause erectile dysfunction too.
And that's just the beginning. Erectile dysfunction can be brought on by strokes, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and a list of other conditions. Thankfully, many men who develop erectile dysfunction as a result of disease respond well to treatment.