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Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Causes, Treatments, Prevention

UPGUYS > Blog > Sex > Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Causes, Treatments, Prevention
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
The person who wrote this article

Written by the UPGUYS Editorial Team
Published on October 01, 2021
Last Updated on June 19, 2023

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition that affects millions of men worldwide, causing difficulties in achieving and maintaining satisfactory erections—approximately 49% of Canadian men aged 40 to 70 experience some degree of ED.

In this comprehensive guide, we explore the causes, symptoms, and effective treatments for ED (Like Viagra), empowering you to regain confidence and enjoy a healthy and fulfilling sexual experience.

What is ED?

A man suffers from ED when he cannot consistently get or maintain an erection that permits satisfactory sexual activity.

Erectile Dysfunction, often abbreviated as ED, is a common penis problem among men where they find it difficult to consistently achieve or maintain an erection that is sufficient for satisfactory sexual activity.

While occasional erection issues are not necessarily a cause for concern, persistent problems over a period of three months or more could indicate a diagnosable case of ED.

The process of achieving an erection is a complex one involving a mix of physical, psychological, hormonal, and environmental factors. The good news is that by addressing some of these factors, ED can often be effectively managed or even fully remedied.

Some treatments are surprisingly simple and accessible. However, it's also important to acknowledge that ED can sometimes be an early warning sign of more serious underlying health issues that require medical attention.

However, it’s important to note that ED can, on occasion, be a signal for more severe underlying issues that require medical attention. Here are some common causes of erectile dysfunction: Heart and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, kidney disease, enlarged prostate, and prostate cancer.

You can read about these underlying causes below.

There are, on the other hand, some sexual problems that are often mistaken for ED, such as:

  1. Decreased interest in sex
  2. Occasional trouble having an erection 
  3. Structural problems that affect ejaculation

Take Control of ED Today: Explore Effective ED Treatments


Erectile dysfunction (ED) can have various causes, both physical and psychological. It is a complex condition that involves the interplay of the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. Here are some common causes:

Physical causes:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
  3. High cholesterol
  4. High blood pressure
  5. Diabetes
  6. Obesity
  7. Metabolic syndrome
  8. Parkinson's disease
  9. Multiple sclerosis
  10. Certain prescription medications
  11. Tobacco use
  12. Peyronie's disease
  13. Alcoholism and substance abuse
  14. Sleep disorders
  15. Prostate cancer or enlarged prostate treatments
  16. Pelvic area or spinal cord surgeries or injuries
  17. Low testosterone

Psychological causes:

  1. Depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions
  2. Stress
  3. Relationship problems

These factors can individually or collectively contribute to the development or worsening of erectile dysfunction. It is important to identify the underlying causes to determine the most appropriate treatment approach.

Read more: Erectile Dysfunction Causes And Available Treatments: Why Does ED Happen?


Symptoms of erectile dysfunction can vary from person to person, and severity can differ depending on the root cause of the condition.

Some common signs include difficulty achieving an erection despite sexual arousal, inability to maintain an erection long enough for satisfying sexual activity, and in more severe cases, an inability to achieve an erection at all. In some cases, men with ED may also experience a decreased desire for sex.

Remember, it's normal for erections to vary in firmness and duration, and occasional difficulties do not necessarily indicate ED.

However, if you are consistently experiencing trouble with erections, it's important to reach out to a healthcare provider. They can help identify whether these symptoms point to erectile dysfunction and provide appropriate treatment options.

Here is a list of common symptoms associated with erectile dysfunction:

  1. Difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection
  2. Reduced sexual desire or libido
  3. Premature ejaculation or delayed ejaculation
  4. Unsatisfactory sexual performance
  5. Anxiety or stress related to sexual activity
  6. Relationship problems due to sexual difficulties
  7. Decreased self-esteem or confidence in sexual abilities
  8. Emotional distress or depression related to sexual dysfunction

It is important to note that experiencing one or more of these symptoms does not automatically indicate erectile dysfunction. Consulting with a healthcare professional is advised for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.

Is ED curable?

The short answer is: Yes!

In a majority of cases, erectile dysfunction can indeed be effectively treated, if not entirely cured. About 95% of ED cases are treatable. In most cases, ED is treated with medication or surgery; sometimes, finding the underlying mental or physical cause and treating it might reverse the symptoms altogether. 

Even in cases where ED cannot be fully cured—such as when it's linked to a chronic health condition—symptoms can often be managed effectively, allowing men to resume satisfying sexual activity. Always consult with a healthcare provider to understand the best treatment options for your specific case.

Take Control of ED Today: Explore Effective ED Treatments

What to do about ED

The best treatment may depend on the person. Depending on which of the above causes contribute to your erectile dysfunction, many proven treatments are available.

  1. For some, a change in lifestyle that includes more exercise and less processed food can do the trick. 
  2. For others, reconnecting emotionally with their partner through communication and spending more time together could be the answer. 
  3. Medications for ED that can be taken orally are also highly effective—and there are a few to choose from, depending on your needs. These medications, either their brand or generic versions, can all be part of your return to high sexual performance. 
  4. More invasive treatments like testosterone injections, penis pumps, and implants can also be appropriate for more severe cases. 

Whatever the cause, a healthcare provider will be able to help diagnose and treat your ED. Whether it’s one, or a combination of the above-mentioned treatments, help is available. 

Remember that most men experience some form of erectile dysfunction, so you’re far from alone in this.

All in all, the first step in returning to a satisfying and healthy sex life for you and your partner could be closer than you think.


Peripheral vascular disease can often be the cause of erectile dysfunction. Therefore, the same risk factors associated with heart attack and stroke may cause the narrowing of the arteries that supply the penis. 

Of course, you can take measures to prevent erectile dysfunction. 

But how?

Let’s be very clear: Erectile dysfunction prevention requires lifelong attention and control of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Other factors such as smoking cessation, weight loss, and regular exercise will also help maintain sexual function.

This is the to-do list to help prevent erectile dysfunction (ED):

1- Quit smoking

There are comprehensive studies linking smoking to ED, on top of other heart and blood vessel diseases.

2- Eat healthily

A healthy eating plan leads to maintaining a good shape and controlling blood pressure. To be more specific, choose whole-grain foods, low-fat dairy, fresh fruits, green vegetables, and lean meats. Avoid dishes that are high in fat, especially saturated fat and sodium. Last but not least, avoid drinking too much alcohol.

3- Maintain a healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight can prevent or delay the start of diabetes. Also, staying in shape can help you manage your blood pressure. High blood pressure and diabetes are both risk factors for ED.

4- Stay physically active

Physical activity helps with the blood flow through your body, including the genital area.

5- Avoid using illegal drugs

Some illicit drugs may cause ED, while others may mask many physical, emotional, or psychological factors that may be causing your ED.

Risk factors

While erectile dysfunction can affect any man, certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing this condition. These risk factors can be categorized into two types: direct and indirect.

Direct risk factors include:

  1. Prostate problems
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Diabetes (Type 2)
  4. High blood cholesterol levels
  5. Low levels of HDL
  6. Vascular problems
  7. Drugs and alcohol consumption
  8. Smoking
  9. Depression or anxiety and sleep problems
  10. Poor sexual knowledge or techniques
  11. A wide range of chronic diseases such as kidney problems
  12. A wide range of neurogenic diseases such as Peyronie's disease 

Indirect risk factors

Age seems to be a solid and definitive indirect risk factor for ED since it contributes to the development of other direct risk factors.

This means that if you have any of these conditions, the likelihood of experiencing ED may be higher in your case.

It's always a good idea to maintain regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor these risk factors and prevent potential complications, including ED.

Psychological impact of ED

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is not just a physical condition; it carries a significant psychological burden that can deeply affect a man's emotional health. The inability to achieve or maintain an erection can lead to feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, and a diminished sense of masculinity.

Anxiety and depression are common among men with ED, fueled by concerns about sexual performance, self-image, and relationship dynamics. Additionally, this chronic stress can exacerbate ED symptoms, creating a vicious cycle of anxiety and sexual dysfunction.

The psychological impact of ED also extends to a man's interpersonal relationships, particularly if he withdraws from his partner due to feelings of shame or fear of sexual failure.

Professional help, such as psychological counseling or sex therapy, can be invaluable for men dealing with these challenges.

Addressing the emotional side of ED is often an integral part of effective treatment, helping men rebuild confidence, reduce anxiety, and improve their overall quality of life.

Impact of ED on partners

Erectile dysfunction doesn't only affect the individual with the condition; it can have a significant impact on their partner as well. Partners may feel rejected or uncertain, blaming themselves for their partner's ED.

They may question their attractiveness or worry that their partner is no longer interested in them. This can lead to feelings of insecurity, resentment, and tension in the relationship.

Communication is key in navigating these complex emotions. Open discussions can help clear misunderstandings and reassure the partner that ED is a medical condition, not a reflection of their desirability or worth.

It's also important for partners to be involved in the treatment process, as their support can play a crucial role in recovery. If necessary, couples therapy can provide a safe space to express feelings, enhance understanding, and rebuild intimacy.


A professional diagnosis of erectile dysfunction (ED) is usually required for beginning the treatment process. For most men, a physical exam is all a doctor needs to confirm their condition. 

However, if the doctor suspects that ED may be a symptom of other underlying diseases, further tests may be required. 

Tests for identifying any underlying condition include:

  1. Physical test: Examination of testicles and penis for checking the sensation of nerve endings.
  2. Blood test: A blood sample is necessary to determine if you have heart disease or diabetes, etc.
  3. Urine test: A urine sample is necessary to determine if you have any STIs, diabetes, or other health conditions.
  4. Ultrasound test: An ultrasound is necessary to check for vessel abnormalities or other health conditions.
  5. Psychological test: A psychological screening test is necessary for your doctor to rule out causes like anxiety and depression.

At any step of the process, your doctor may refer you to specialists or recommend you to take a test. We recommend you cooperate with your doctor to get to the root of your problem and get a professional diagnosis.

ED and other diseases

Your penis can be a barometer of your overall health.

When your penis is not functioning properly, that may be an early symptom of other conditions.

A) Heart and other cardiovascular diseases

The artery that supplies blood to the penis is much narrower than an artery in your heart, so conditions that affect your cardiovascular health can affect your sexual function long before they affect your heart—sometimes up to 10 years before symptoms appear.

Read more: Erectile Dysfunction & Heart Disease: How Do They Relate To One Another?

B) Diabetes

The link between erectile dysfunction and diabetes is the most striking—approximately 50 percent of men with diabetes experience erectile dysfunction.

C) Kidney disease

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition among male chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients. Approximately 80 % of the patients with CKD are affected by ED.

D) Enlarged prostate

Enlarged prostate and ED go hand in hand in many cases, especially in older men. A study suggests that urinary tract problems caused by an enlarged prostate, like getting up several times during the night for urination, may be associated with erectile dysfunction and other issues relating to sex in older men.

E) Prostate cancer

Sudden erectile dysfunction happens in some people with advanced prostate cancer. If your erectile dysfunction is accompanied by spotting blood in the urine or semen, pain in the hips, and a weak urine stream, talk to your doctor.

Read more: Erectile Dysfunction And 4 Other Warning Signs Of Prostate Cancer

Statistics about ED

Epidemiological studies of ED suggest approximately 5% to 20% of men have moderate to severe ED.

Another cross-sectional study of 3921 Canadian men, ages 40 to 88, found the overall prevalence of erectile dysfunction (ED) was 49.4%, and therefore an estimated 3 million Canadian men over 40 are affected by it.

So you are not alone in this!

Prevalence across age groups

Erectile dysfunction is a common health issue that affects men of all ages, but its prevalence does increase with age. It's estimated that about 5% of men at the age of 40 have complete erectile dysfunction, and this number jumps to about 15% at age 70.

However, mild to moderate erectile dysfunction affects approximately 10% of men per decade of life (i.e., 50% of men in their 50s, 60% of men in their 60s).


Prevalence of ED

Global (40 - 80)

20% (Approx.)

United States

Over 30 Million Men

United Kingdom

Around 4 Million Men

While it's common for men to experience some changes in sexual function as they age—such as needing more time to achieve an erection or difficulty maintaining an erection—the persistent inability to achieve or maintain an erection is not a normal part of aging.

It's crucial for men to understand this, as many men shy away from seeking help because they believe ED is just an inevitable part of getting older. It's important to remember that ED is a treatable condition, regardless of age.

ED is highly treatable

The key message to take away from this is that erectile dysfunction is a common condition that is highly treatable in most cases. There is a range of treatment options available, depending on the cause of the ED and the individual's specific needs and circumstances. Treatments can include lifestyle changes, medication, psychological counseling, and sometimes surgery.

Before beginning any treatment, it is crucial to seek professional medical advice. A healthcare provider can accurately diagnose the issue, identify the underlying cause, and advise the most suitable treatment option.

The important thing to remember is that it's never too early or too late to seek help for ED. With the right treatment, most men can return to satisfying sexual activity and improve their overall quality of life.

Remember, you're not alone. Millions of men worldwide experience ED, and there are professionals ready and willing to help.

Key takeaways

  1. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when you cannot consistently get or maintain an erection.
  2. Several factors may cause ED, including emotional and physical
  3. Experiencing erectile dysfunction may signal an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart problems, or prostate problems.
  4. You can prevent erectile dysfunction by choosing a more healthy lifestyle
  5. There are several available methods for treating ED, such as therapy or medications.
  6. Forty percent of men experience some sort of ED, regardless of their race.


UPGUYS has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information provided in the articles cannot and should not replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns or the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.