Myths and Facts About Erectile Dysfunction

There's a lot of misinformation about the causes and treatments of erectile dysfunction (ED). To know the facts, you may need to bust some myths along the way.

Erectile Dysfunction and Age

Myth: ED is a normal part of growing older and men have to learn to live with it.

Fact: Although ED is more common among older men, that doesn't mean it's something you have to live with.

It's not unusual for older men to need more stimulation to help get them aroused than they did when they were younger. But there's no reason you won't be able to enjoy sex as you get older. Lots of guys are able to get erections well into their senior years, and there's likely no reason that you can't be one of them.

Myth: Erectile dysfunction doesn't affect younger men.

Fact: Although ED is more common in men over 75, guys of any age can have it.

Erectile Dysfunction and Overall Health

Myth: ED may be upsetting, but there's nothing dangerous about it.

Fact: Although ED itself isn't dangerous, it can be an early warning sign of a serious health condition, such as diabetes or heart problems.

It's important to see your doctor if you have ED. A medical exam not only helps you figure out the cause of the problem and find a treatment that can return you to a more active sex life, it may also alert you to an illness that needs immediate treatment.

Myth: If you have trouble getting an erection, it's because you're not attracted to your partner.

Fact: Many things cause erection problems. Although lack of sexual attraction to your partner might be one of them, it's far more likely to be something else.

ED can be caused by:

  • Heart problems, such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Diabetes (between 35% and 50% of men with diabetes get ED)
  • Some medications for blood pressure, anxiety, and depression
  • Nerve disorders, like Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis
  • Hormone problems
  • Mood problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Certain types of prostate and bladder surgery

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Treating Erectile Dysfunction

Myth: Pills are the only way to treat erectile dysfunction.

Fact: There are many options to treat ED. Medicine that the FDA has approved for ED work well for many men. These include medications taken by mouth, injected into the penis, or put into the urethra -- the tube that goes through the penis and carries urine and semen.

If your ED is caused by another health problem, like high blood pressure, you can help your erection problems if you treat that condition. If you have ED because it's a side effect of a medicine you take, your doctor may be able to switch you to another medication. Don't stop taking any medication before talking to your doctor.

You may also be able to make a few lifestyle changes. For example, it may help if you quit smoking, lose weight, or cut down on how much alcohol you drink.

Psychotherapy has also been useful for a lot of guys who get ED because of anxiety. You can find a trained counselor with experience in this treatment by contacting the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.

Mechanical vacuum devices and surgical treatments may also help with erection problems.

Myth: I can treat ED myself without seeing a doctor by using herbal remedies and supplements.

Fact: You run several risks when you take supplements for ED. For one thing, you may not be able to tell the exact contents of many of the supplements sold as ED treatments. It's possible they could have dangerous ingredients that might not mix well with other medications you take.

Also, if you take supplements without talking to your doctor, it means you're not getting checked for conditions like diabetes and heart disease that may be causing your ED.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on November 02, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Family Physicians.

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse.

Nature.

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