Erection problems may be caused by physical problems
related to the blood vessels, nerves, and hormones. Or they may be caused by psychological issues.
Normally, an erection
occurs when your imagination or senses (vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste)
are stimulated and you become aroused. Your central nervous system sends nerve
impulses that increase blood flow to your penis.
Being unable to have or keep an erection adequate for sexual activity is the defining mark of erectile dysfunction. The problem may manifest itself in several ways. If the dysfunction:
Is transient or appearing only occasionally, the problem is not likely to be serious; all men experience problems with erections at some time in their lives.
Develops gradually and persistently, there is probably a physical cause; this is generally the case with chronic impotence.
The use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs. Stopping or reducing the use of these substances may make the erection problem less severe.
Problems with the blood vessels. These problems may prevent blood from filling the penis or from staying
there long enough to maintain an erection. For example, long-term
high blood pressure can cause damage to blood vessels
and lead to erection problems.
Problems with the nerves (neurologic
problems). These may prevent arousal signals from traveling from the brain and spinal
cord to the penis.