Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Erectile Dysfunction Health Center

Font Size

Erectile Dysfunction Causes

Impotence/Erectile Dysfunction Causes

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by any number of physical and psychological factors. In general, ED is divided into organic (having to do with a bodily organ or organ system) and psychogenic (mental) impotence, but most men with organic causes have a mental or psychological component as well.

Erection problems will usually produce a significant psychological and emotional reaction in most men. This is often described as a pattern of anxiety and stress that can further interfere with normal sexual function. This "performance anxiety" needs to be recognized and addressed by your doctor.

Recommended Related to Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction: Where to Start

The doctor says you have erectile dysfunction (ED). It sounds terrible, but it's not the end of your sex life. In fact, your sex life probably is about to get much better. You may have a referral to a urologist, a doctor who specializes in treating this condition, for more tests. You may already have a trial prescription for Viagra or similar drugs. Whatever you're doing next, the most important thing to remember is that you aren't in this alone. Your partner is also affected by the problem and...

Read the Erectile Dysfunction: Where to Start article > >

  • Almost any disease can affect erectile function by altering the nervous, vascular, or hormonal systems. Various diseases may produce changes in the smooth muscle tissue of the penis or influence mood and behavior.
  • Vascular diseases account for nearly half of all cases of ED in men older than 50 years. Vascular disease includes atherosclerosis (fatty deposits on the walls of arteries, also called hardening of the arteries), a history of heart attacks, peripheral vascular disease (problems with blood circulation), and high blood pressure. Prolonged tobacco use (smoking) is considered an important risk factor for ED because it is associated with poor circulation and reduced blood flow in the penis.
  • Trauma to the pelvic blood vessels and nerves is another potential factor in the development of ED. Bicycle riding for long periods has been implicated, so some of the newer bicycle seats have been designed to soften pressure on the perineum (the soft area between the anus and the scrotum).
  • Medications used to treat other medical disorders may cause ED.
  • Systemic diseases associated with ED
    • Diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Scleroderma
    • Renal (kidney) failure
    • Liver cirrhosis
    • Hemochromatosis (too much iron in the blood)
    • Cancer and cancer treatment
  • Diseases of the nervous system associated with ED
    • Epilepsy
    • Stroke
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Guillain-Barre syndrome
    • Alzheimer disease
    • Trauma (including spinal trauma)
    • Parkinson disease
  • Respiratory disease associated with ED: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Endocrine conditions associated with ED
    • Hyperthyroidism
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Hypogonadism (low testosterone)
    • Obesity
    • Metabolic syndrom
  • Penile conditions associated with ED
    • Peyronie disease
    • Priapism (painful, abnormally prolonged erections)
  • Mental conditions associated with ED
    • Depression
    • Widower syndrome
    • Performance anxiety
  • Nutritional states associated with ED
    • Malnutrition
    • Zinc deficiency
  • Blood diseases associated with ED
    • Sickle cell anemia
    • Leukemias
  • Surgical procedures associated with ED
    • Procedures on the brain and spinal cord
    • Retroperitoneal or pelvic lymph node dissection
    • Aortoiliac or aortofemoral bypass
    • Abdominal perineal resection
    • Proctocolectomy
    • Radical prostatectomy
    • Transurethral resection of the prostate
    • Cryosurgery of the prostate
    • Cystectomy
  • Common medications associated with ED
    • Antidepressants
    • Antipsychotics
    • Antihypertensives (for high blood pressure)
    • Antiulcer drugs such as cimetidine (Tagamet)
    • Hormonal medication such as Zoladex, Lupron, finasteride (Proscar), or dutasteride (Avodart)
    • Drugs that lower cholesterol
    • Alcohol abuse
    • Mind-altering agents such as marijuana and cocaine

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed on April 25, 2014

Today on WebMD

handsome midadult man
11 tips to protect your erection.
man and woman on beach
How much do you know about ED?
 
stress in bed
Things that can deflate erections.
senior couple hugging
How medications work.
 
concerned man
Article
stress in bed
Slideshow
 
Life Cycle of a Penis
Article
Mens Body Problem
Slideshow
 
bored man
Article
Lamm Erections Over Life
Video
 
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Article
senior couple hugging
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections