“Erectile dysfunction” (or ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual intercourse – which can certainly feel serious at the time. However, it’s also very common, affecting about half of all Canadian men over 40.
Many people don’t really understand what happens inside the penis to allow an erection to occur. When a man is sexually aroused, arteries in the penis widen, allowing more blood than normal to flow in, and at the same time compressing the vessels that would allow blood to be released. With more blood flowing in and less flowing out, the penis gets larger, resulting in an erection.
Why erectile dysfunction happens
Unfortunately, the complex system that allows an erection to occur can also be easily damaged. Diseases that can cause ED include:
- Kidney disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neurological diseases
- Atherosclerosis (artery blockages)
- Blood vessel diseases
- Hormone problems such as low testosterone levels
Habits like smoking and heavy drinking can also cause ED by damaging the blood vessels, thus decreasing the blood flow to the penis. Many common drugs also have side effects that can cause ED. Stress, anxiety, depression and fear of sexual failure are responsible for 10 to 20% of ED occurrences.