Erectile dysfunction (ED), sometimes referred to as impotence, is the inability of a man to achieve or maintain an erection hard enough for sexual intercourse. Millions of men in the U.S. have erectile dysfunction. It may be caused by diseases, complications from surgery, side effects of certain medications, lifestyle factors, and psychological factors.
Erectile dysfunction can be treated at any age. Treatment depends on your overall health and the underlying cause of the problem. If erectile...
European scientists caused a stir in 2008 when they published results of a
study -- believed to be the only one of its kind -- purporting to show that
infrequent sex can lead to erectile dysfunction.
But many urologists remain skeptical.
The study, published in the July 2008 issue of the American Journal of
Medicine, tracked 989 men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s for five years. It
showed that men who reported having sexual intercourse less than once a week
were twice as likely to develop ED. The less frequent the sex, the greater the
risk for ED.
“The result indicated that regular sexual activity preserves potency in a
similar fashion as physical exercise maintains functional
capacity,” the scientists concluded.
The study didn’t address the question of whether masturbation helps preserve
male sexual function. But it probably does help, says Juha Koskimaki, MD, PhD,
a urologist at Tampere University Hospital in Tampere, Finland, and one of the
authors of the study.
Both forms of sexual activity seem to protect nerve fibers and blood vessels
responsible for erectile function and prevent scarring of the chambers inside
the penis that fill with blood to
form an erection, Koskimaki says.
Not So Fast
Other urologists tell WebMD that that while infrequent sex is clearly
associated with ED, it’s unclear that it causes ED. And it’s premature to
conclude that frequent sex or masturbation can help men stave off ED, they
“Having sex is good, masturbating is good, but the concept that men have to
go out and have sex to preserve erectile function is bogus,” says Irwin
Goldstein, MD, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San
Ira D. Sharlip, MD, clinical professor of urology at the University of
California at San Francisco School of Medicine and a spokesman for the American
Urological Association, says that infrequent sex is more likely to be a
consequence of ED than a cause.
Among men in the study, those who reported frequent sex might simply have
had “good genes” that protected them from ED, whereas the men who developed ED
might have had sex less frequently simply because they were having erection
trouble, Sharlip tells WebMD in an email.