Is impotence the same thing as erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Impotence is another term that refers to erectile dysfunction (ED) although the term impotence is not as commonly used as it once was. Impotence or erectile dysfunction occurs when a man cannot maintain an erection 75% of the time to have sex or to finish having sex.

Impotence or ED is a common and treatable condition. Drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis) can help men achieve or sustain an adequate erection. Lifestyle changes, erection devices, and sometimes surgery can help men achieve an erection and enjoy sexual relationships again.

Impotence may involve erectile dysfunction, but also may be the lack of desire to have sex. This second part is more likely to be a relative lack of testosterone, where an erection needs both good vascular flow to the penis and enough testosterone. Psychological issues can be involved as well.

Erectile dysfunction and impotence are two terms, often used interchangeably, that mean almost the same thing. Erectile dysfunction refers to difficulty getting or keeping an erection that's firm enough to last through sex. Impotence is a slightly broader term that can encompass other sexual health concerns, such as low sex drive as well as problems with ejaculation and achieving orgasm.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Impotence is a term that you will still hear used now and then to describe a problem with having and keeping an erection. However, most doctors today prefer the phrase erectile dysfunction (ED). Erectile dysfunction may sound like medical jargon, but it really makes more sense. The older name carries some unfortunate suggestions, since impotence is a similar word for weakness. Having a problem with erections has nothing to do with being weak or ineffective. It's simply a matter of your erection-making system not functioning properly.

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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.