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Erectile Dysfunction and Vascular Disease

Vascular diseases affect blood vessels. They restrict blood flow to organs such as the heart, brain, and kidneys. In erectile dysfunction, vascular diseases restrict blood flow to the penis. Vascular diseases may be responsible for causing ED in as many as 50% to 70% of men who develop the condition.

Restriction of blood flow caused by a vascular disease is usually caused by a buildup of cholesterol and other substances that may block blood vessels. In some men, the blood vessels in the penis, and the rest of the body, may not function properly. They may restrict blood flow when they're not supposed to. The good news is that lifestyle measures and drug treatments typically work for types of vascular disease that can cause erectile dysfunction. 

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Atherosclerosis and Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a widespread problem. Up to 39% of 40-year-old men report some degree of erectile dysfunction, and two-thirds of men over age 70 have significant symptoms. Erectile dysfunction isn't life-threatening, but that doesn't mean it's not serious. Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) are more likely to feel depressed and report less enjoyment in life. Thanks to advertisements for drugs that treat it, you may have heard more about erectile dysfunction than you ever cared to. But...

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Conditions Associated With Vascular Disease and Erectile Dysfunction

The following conditions are associated with vascular disease and clogged arteries.

  • Coronary artery disease (clogged arteries in the heart)
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Peripheral vascular disease -- This disease particularly affects blood vessels that supply blood to the legs.

If you have one of these conditions, it's more likely that a problem with the blood vessels in your penis may cause erectile dysfunction.

Also, smoking greatly increases the change of developing clogged arteries and vascular disease. If you have erectile dysfunction, quitting smoking can help. 

What Is a Venous Leak?

Your penis must store blood to keep an erection. If the veins in the penis cannot prevent blood from leaving the penis during an erection, you'll lose your erection. This is called venous leak. Venous leakage may occur with vascular disease. Venous leakage is also associated with diabetes, Peyronie's disease (buildup of scar tissue in the penis that leads to curved, painful erections), certain nerve conditions, and even severe anxiety. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Charles E. Jennings, MD on September 12, 2013
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