Dr. Drogo Montague discusses treatment options for erectile dysfunction.

What is erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. Estimates suggest that one of every 10 men will suffer from ED at some point during his lifetime. It is important to understand that in most cases, ED is a symptom of another, underlying problem. ED is not considered normal at any age, and may be associated with other problems that interfere with sexual intercourse, such as lack of desire and problems with orgasm and ejaculation.

How common is erectile dysfunction?

Approximately one in 10 adult males will suffer from ED on a long-term basis.

Many men do experience occasional failure to achieve erection, which can occur for a variety of reasons, such as drinking too much alcohol, stress, relationship problems, or from being extremely tired.

The failure to get an erection less than 20% of the time is not unusual and typically does not require treatment. However, the failure to achieve an erection more than 50% of the time generally means that there is a problem and treatment is needed.

ED does not have to be a part of getting older. While it is true that some older men may need more stimulation, they should still be able to achieve an erection and enjoy intercourse.

What causes erectile dysfunction (ED)?

ED can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Vascular disease: Blood supply to the penis can become blocked or narrowed as a result of vascular disease such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
  • Neurological disorders (such as multiple sclerosis): Nerves that send impulses to the penis can become damaged from stroke, diabetes, or other causes.
  • Psychological states: These include stress, depression, lack of stimulus from the brain, and performance anxiety.
  • Trauma: An injury could contribute to symptoms of ED.

Chronic illness, certain medications, and a condition called Peyronie's disease can also cause ED. Operations for the prostate, bladder, and colon cancer may also be contributing factors.

Medications which may cause erectile dysfunction (ED)

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common side effect of a number of prescription drugs. While these medications may treat a disease or condition, in doing so they can affect a man's hormones, nerves or blood circulation, resulting in ED or increasing the risk of ED.

If you experience ED and think that it may be a result of the medication you are using, DO NOT stop taking the medication. If the problem persists, contact your doctor and he or she may be able to prescribe a different medication. Common medications that may list ED as a potential side effect include:

  • Diuretics (pills that cause increase urine flow)
  • Antihypertensives (high blood pressure drugs)
  • Antihistamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Parkinson's disease drugs
  • Antiarrhythmics (drug for irregular heart action)
  • Tranquilizers
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Histamine H2-receptor antagonists
  • Hormones
  • Chemotherapy medications
  • Prostate cancer drugs
  • Anti-seizure medications

Other substances or drugs that can cause or lead to ED include these recreational and frequently abused drugs:

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Methadone
  • Nicotine
  • Opiates

These drugs not only affect and often suppress the central nervous system, but can also cause serious damage to the blood vessels, leading to permanent ED.