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Problems Getting Erections

Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence or weak erection, can be an embarrassing problem for many men. It is a very common condition that typically occurs more in older men. Often men in their 40's and 50's begin to experience the first signs of softer erections, which is usually the result of poor diet and eating habits, and a lack of healthy regular cardiovascular exercise.


It’s a very personal and sometimes embarrassing sexual dysfunction. Most men are often too uncomfortable speaking with their doctors or anyone else about this common male condition. However, it’s imperative they do, in order to get treatment to help fix things.

There are two things that characterize erectile dysfunction: the inability to obtain an erection (usually a physiological problem), and the inability to maintain an erection long enough to actually perform intercourse (usually a psychological problem). Understanding the physiological process of how erections happen is important to understanding why men have problems.

How Erections Work

The penis is made up of sponge like material that flows through a cavity called the corpora cavernosa, which is encased by a tough fibrous sheath of tissue known as the tunica albuginea. An erection is a function of both physical and mental stimulation. That is, physical stimulation causes sexual arousal, which causes the corpora cavernosa to relax. This spongy erectile tissue is then filled with blood and becomes an erection.

The channels of blood to and from the penis are disconnected when stimulation stops, the blood stops flowing to the corpora cavernosa and the penis becomes soft. An erection can be gained and lost very quickly and easily. Those who don’t have ED can obtain and maintain an erection throughout intercourse until they reach a climax.

Possible Erectile Dysfunction Causes

Diabetes can be one of the chief causes of impotence. As many as 55% of men affected by diabetes will also be affected by some kind of erectile problem at some stage in their life's. Impotence can also be caused by a lack or complete absence of the male hormone, testosterone. Surgeries for removal of the bladder and prostate cancer, amongst other groin surgeries, can desensitize genital nerve endings, which can hinder the ability for stimulation to reach the penis.

Legal prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as appetite suppressants, antihistamine's, anti-depressants and tranquilizers can hinder the nervous system and stop the brain from transmitting impulses to the penis. The same effect can be caused by addictive drugs such as tobacco, drugs and alcohol. Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart disease and neurological conditions can all lead to impotence.

Psychological impotence, better known as sexual anxiety, has often been proven to be one of the most debilitating causes of erectile dysfunction in younger men. The fear of undressing and performing with a new partner can often result in young males not being able to get it up and perform.

Testing and Treatment

Drugs that could be affecting the ability of a man to get an erection, can be determined through a comprehensive medical history by the physician. This could be prescription based medications, or recreational type drugs such as cannabis.

It is typical for men to become erect during the REM stage of sleep. Monitoring during this time can determine whether the condition is physical or psychological. Lastly, determining whether the penis is able to achieve an erection through physical stimulation, can help in deciding whether the problem is psychological or physical in nature.

Once the reason for the condition is determined, treatment for impotence can begin. If a drug (whether, legal, illicit, prescription or over-the-counter) is the cause, simply stopping use of the drug can have the desired effect. If a prescription drug is being used, then a substitute drug which doesn't have similar side effects can be used instead.

Psychological counselling can go a long way in helping men to overcome ED, particularly if it is related to excessive nervousness in the bedroom which is causing the problem. Although this may seem like the end of the world for many men who are in their prime and sexually active, a simple visit to the doctor could help give men back their sexual ability and confidence.

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