Is erectile dysfunction caused by physical problems?

Madeleine M. Castellanos, MD
Most cases of erectile problems are caused or influenced by physical issues, particularly those that limit blood flow to the penis or damage the nerves in that organ. These include:
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Low levels of testosterone or other hormonal problems
  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Certain prescription and illegal drugs
  • Treatments for prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Once upon a time, most docs thought a man’s problem in the bedroom was caused by high anxiety or other “mental problems”. Now we know differently. Doctors realize that erectile dysfunction (ED) is a physical problem. Indeed, about 80% of the time, erectile dysfunction (ED) has a physical cause. In short, when your arteries get hard, you might not.

Physical problems that increase your risk of ED include atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol. Each of these affect the ability of blood to flow efficiently, and it is blood flow to your penis that leads to an erection. The good news is that treating the underlying physical cause may also treat ED.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Most guys can't get lift-off in the bedroom because of physical problems—diagnosed and undiagnosed. In fact, cardiovascular disease, untreated high blood pressure, smoking, and type 2 diabetes are the primary causes of erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to get and maintain an erection. The frustrating part of all this is that even if a guy wants to have sex, his body cannot make it happen. Why? The conditions above either squelch blood flow—the vital ingredient in all erections—to the penis, cause the blood to leak out of the organ once it arrives there, or damage the message from the brain to the body telling it to send blood down south. It's not rocket science: You need enough blood flowing through your penis to get and maintain an erection. Talk with your doctor about possible causes of your erectile dysfunction and have them treated.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.