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What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. Chronic erectile dysfunction affects approximately 5 percent of men in their 40s and 15 to 25 percent of men over the age of 65. Transient erectile dysfunction can affect up to 50 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 70.
Under normal physiological conditions, neurotransmitters in the brain initiate an erection by sending messages to the vascular (blood) system to increase blood flow to the penis. The corpora cavernosa (tubes of connective tissue) and erectile tissue in the penis expand as a result of the increased blood flow and pressure. Following ejaculation, pressure in the penis decreases to reduce blood flow and allow the penis to resume its normal shape.
Erectile dysfunction may be caused by the following conditions:
- Nerve damage
- Reduced blood flow to the penis
- Vascular disease
- Venous leak (vein leakage)
- Diabetes and other hormonal disorders
- Neurologic conditions
- Pelvic trauma
- Damage from surgery or radiation therapy
- Peyronie’s disease (scarring of erectile tissue)
- Psychological conditions
- Certain prescription drugs
Patients suffering from erectile dysfunction often experience negative psychological side effects. They may have low self-esteem or feel inadequate as a sexual partner. Partners of patients suffering from erectile dysfunction may also feel the emotional strain of the diagnosis.