Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Until recently, many people believed erectile dysfunction was purely psychological. Men were often told, "It's all in your head." But experts now agree that about 80 percent of men with erectile dysfunction have an underlying physical reason for the condition. In other words, a health problem or lifestyle practice makes it difficult to have an erection, no matter what a person's emotions are like. For the other 20 percent of men, emotions or 'psychological' reasons are thought to be the main cause of ED. This doesn't make the erectile dysfunction any less real, and psychological causes can still be treated. In some cases, both psychological and physical reasons can cause the condition.

Physical causes: Erectile dysfunction that slowly becomes more noticeable over time usually has a physical cause.

Physical causes can include:

  • blockage in the arteries going to the penis
  • a disease that affects tissue in the penis
  • injury or surgery in the pelvic area (between the hipbones)
  • a chronic disease, such as kidney or liver failure
  • health conditions that affect the nervous system
  • diabetes
  • unusual changes in hormones
  • side effects of some medications
  • alcoholism and/or drug abuse
  • heavy smoking

Psychological Causes: Men who notice a sudden change in their ability to have an erection often have a psychological reason for their condition. For example, just as thinking about sex may cause an erection, negative thoughts can stop one from happening. In fact, when erectile dysfunction is caused by psychological reasons only, a man may still have an erection during his sleep or when he wakes up in the morning.

Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction include:

  • stress or anxiety at work or at home
  • worry or fears about ability to "perform"
  • unresolved sexual orientation
  • problems in the marriage or relationship
  • depression

Whether erectile dysfunction is caused by physical factors, psychological factors, or both, the effect it has on a man and his partner can become a significant source of emotional and physical distress for both people.

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