Healthcare Library

Erection problems

You're a man and unfortunately, you aren't able to get an erection at all, or, you lose your erection during intercourse before you are ready. What's a man to do? Let's talk about the causes of this condition, and the various ways to make erection problems a thing of the past. Erection problems are pretty common in adult men. Almost all men sometimes have trouble getting or keeping an erection. In many cases, the problem goes away with little or no treatment. In other cases, it can be an ongoing problem. If you have trouble getting or keeping an erection more than 25% of the time, it is a problem. An erection involves your brain, nerves, hormones, and blood vessels. So, anything that interferes with any of these normal functions can lead to problems getting or keeping an erection. Common causes of erection problems include diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or thyroid conditions, poor blood flow, depression, or nervous system disorders like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease. Medicines can also be a culprit, including those that treat high blood pressure, heart problems, sleeping pills, and antidepressants. Men who have prostate surgery may also have erection problems, but this is often only a short-term problem. For many men, lifestyle changes can help. Cut down on smoking, alcohol, and illegal drug use. Get plenty of rest and take time to relax. Exercise and eat a healthy diet to keep good blood circulation. Talk openly to your partner about sex and your relationship; if you can't do this, counseling can help. If the problem does not go away with lifestyle changes, or if it begins after an injury or prostate surgery, or if you have symptoms like low back pain, or abdominal pain, or a change in urination, you should call your doctor. If erection problems seem to be caused by a medication you are taking, talk to your doctor about that. You may need to lower the dose or change to another drug. But don't change or stop taking any medications without first talking to your doctor. Treatment may depend on the cause of your problem. Your doctor can prescribe many treatments, including medicines you take by mouth, injections into the penis, medicines inserted into the urethra, vacuum devices, surgery, and penis implants. Ask your doctor about the possible side effects and complications of each treatment. Sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis) are popular medications called phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors. They work, and they work when you are sexually aroused. These drugs can have side effects, which can range from muscle pain and flushing to heart attack. Do not use these drugs with medications such as nitroglycerin. The combination can cause your blood pressure to drop. As you see, there are several ways to treat erectile problems. Talk with your doctor to see what may be the best one for you.

Erection problems

Review Date: 5/20/2019

Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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