By Sola Ogundipe

When a man has trouble getting or keeping an erection, he is said to have Erectile Dysfunction (ED) which is a common type of male sexual dysfunction. ED can be a total inability to achieve an erection, an inconsistent ability to do so, or a tendency to sustain only brief erections.

Although ED becomes more common as a man gets older, it’s important to stress that it’s not a natural part of aging. You may have trouble speaking about sex, but if you have ED, you should tell your doctor, because ED can be a sign of health problems.

Problems getting or keeping an erection are known to be signs of underlying health conditions that need treatment and a risk factor for perhaps a heart disease later on. It may mean your blood vessels are clogged. It may mean you have nerve damage from diabetes.

So if you don’t see your doctor, these problems will go untreated. Having erection trouble from time to time isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. If erectile dysfunction is an ongoing issue, however, it can cause stress, affect a man’s self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems.

If you’re concerned about erectile dysfunction, talk to your doctor —even if you’re embarrassed. Sometimes, treating the underlying condition is enough to reverse erectile dysfunction. In other cases, medications or other direct treatments might be needed. Here are the most common causes of ED.


The brain is an often-overlooked erogenous zone. Sexual excitement starts in the head and works its way down. Depression can dampens desire and can lead to erectile dysfunction. Ironically, many of the drugs used to treat depression can also suppress sex drive and make it harder to get an erection, and they can cause a delay in orgasm.


Having a few drinks to get in the mood could be okay, but overindulging could make it harder to start or even finish the act. Heavy alcohol use can interfere with erections, but the effects are usually temporary. Moderate drinking—one or two drinks a day—might have health benefits like reducing heart disease risks. Those risks are similar to erectile dysfunction risks.


The contents of the medicine cabinet could affect performance in the bedroom. A long list of common drugs can cause ED, including certain blood pressure drugs, pain medications, and antidepressants. Street drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana can cause sexual problems in men, too.


It’s not easy to get in the mood when overwhelmed by responsibilities at work and home. Stress can take its toll on many different parts of the body, including the nether region. Dealing with stress by making lifestyle changes that promote well-being and relaxation, such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and seeking professional help when appropriate, really helps.


Anger can make the blood rush to your face, but not to the one place you need it when you want to have sex. It’s not easy to feel romantic when you’re raging, whether your anger is directed at your partner or not. Unexpressed anger or improperly expressed anger can contribute to performance problems in the bedroom.


Worrying that you won’t be able to perform in the bedroom can make it harder for you to do just that. Anxiety from other parts of life can also spill over into the bedroom. All that worry can make you fear and avoid intimacy, which can spiral into a vicious cycle that puts a big strain on your sex life— and relationship.

Middle-aged spread

Carrying extra kilos can impact sexual performance, and not just by lowering self-esteem. Obese men have lower levels of the male hormone testosterone, which is important for sexual desire and producing an erection. Being overweight is also linked to high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, which can reduce blood flow to the male sex organ.


When you don’t like what you see in the mirror, it’s easy to assume your partner isn’t going to like the view, either. A negative self-image can elicit worry not only about how you look, but also how well you’re going to perform in bed. That performance anxiety can make you too anxious to even attempt sex.

Low libido

Low libido isn’t the same as erectile dysfunction, but a lot of the same factors that stifle an erection can also dampen your interest in sex. Low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, and certain medications can all reduce your sex drive. When all those worries are tied up with making love, your interest in sex can take a nosedive.

General health

Many different health conditions can affect the nerves, muscles, or blood flow that is needed to have an erection. Diabetes, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, spinal cord injuries, and multiple sclerosis can contribute to ED. Surgery to treat prostate or bladder problems can also affect the nerves and blood vessels that control an erection.

Solving ED problems

It can be embarrassing to talk to your doctor about your sex life, but it’s the best way to get treated and get back to being intimate with your partner. The doctor can pinpoint the source of the problem and may recommend lifestyle interventions like quitting smoking or losing weight. Other treatment options are ED drugs, hormone treatments, a suction device that helps create an erection, or counselling.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.