What increases my risk for erectile dysfunction?

Because there are so many causes of erectile dysfunction (ED), there are many things that may increase your risk for the condition. Getting older may be one factor that increases your risk for ED, although age alone doesn't usually cause the condition - usually, it's another underlying medical condition. Having another medical condition, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or heart disease, may increase your risk for erectile dysfunction. Taking certain medications or undergoing other treatments or surgeries for medical problems may also increase your risk. Tobacco, drug, and alcohol use may increase your risk for erectile dysfunction. You may also be at a higher risk if you have certain psychological problems like depression, anxiety, or lasting relationship problems.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Erectile dysfunction is a single medical condition with many potential causes. However, the most common reason men develop problems with getting and sustaining erections is probably poor blood flow. For a penis to become erect, blood must rush in and fill two chambers called the corpora cavernosa. If you have damaged arteries, you may not have sufficient blood flow to the penis, which could result in erectile dysfunction. Your arteries could be damaged if you have:
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
Studies show that people who are overweight and don't exercise are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction, too. Smoking and abusing alcohol are also linked to poor erections.

A complex network of nerves must be activated to create an erection. Spinal cord injuries, some types of surgery, and diseases such as multiple sclerosis can damage nerves necessary for healthy erections.

Hormones play a vital role in producing erections and libido, or sexual desire. Men with low testosterone and certain other hormonal imbalances may lack interest in sex or be incapable of achieving an erection. Likewise, depression, anxiety, stress, and fatigue can dampen libido and inhibit a man's sexual function.

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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.