Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a common issue for men in their 50s. In fact, data from insurance claims databases suggests that men aged between 50 and 59 are the demographic most likely to seek medical assistance for erectile dysfunction.
If you’ve noticed that it’s more difficult for you to get or maintain an erection during sex, you may want to talk to a healthcare provider to learn more about your treatment options.
Erectile dysfunction has several potential causes, from physical health issues such as diabetes or high blood pressure to mental health disorders, habits and even your use of certain types of medication.
While ED can be frustrating to deal with, it’s almost always treatable with medication, changes to your lifestyle or a combination of these things.
Below, we’ve provided more information about how and why erectile dysfunction can develop in your 50s. We’ve also explained what you can do if you’ve started to experience ED and want to take action to improve your erectile health and sexual performance.
Erectile dysfunction is a condition in which you may find it difficult or impossible to develop and maintain an erection that allows you to have enjoyable, fulfilling sex.
While many people think of ED as not being able to get an erection at all, the reality is that ED can vary in severity. You may have erectile dysfunction if you:
Erectile dysfunction is sometimes referred to as impotence. It can be a short-term problem that occurs from time to time or a long-term issue that has a lasting effect on your sexual health and performance.
While erections might seem simple, the reality is that developing and maintaining an erection is a complicated process that involves your brain, nerves and cardiovascular system.
Erections begin with sexual stimulation and arousal. When you feel aroused, your brain signals to nerves located near your penis, causing an increase in blood flow to the corporate cavernosa -- a pair of soft, sponge-like areas of tissue inside your penis.
As blood flows into this tissue, your penis becomes firm and erect. The membrane surrounding your penis, called the tunica albuginea, contracts, helping to keep blood inside your penis and maintain your erection while you have sex.
Erectile dysfunction occurs when one or several factors disrupt this process, either by affecting your blood flow, nerve function or sexual arousal.
A variety of different factors can cause erectile dysfunction, ranging from physical health issues to medications, unhealthy habits and even psychiatric disorders such as depression.
While not all of the factors that cause erectile dysfunction correlate with age, some are linked to aging and can become more of a problem as you enter your 50s.
Common physical causes of erectile dysfunction include high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), heart and blood vessel disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.
These conditions may affect blood flow throughout your body, making it more difficult for blood to flow into the erectile tissue of your penis. Some, such as diabetes, may damage the nerves required for an erection.
Many of these issues become more common as you enter your fifties. For example, according to the American Heart Association, many common risk factors for cardiovascular disease begin to appear in people’s 50s and sixties.
Health issues such as obesity, which can contribute to an increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, are also most prevalent in adults in their 40s and fifties.
Erectile dysfunction can also develop as a side effect of certain medications, including common medications used by people in their 50s.
Medications that may cause ED include antidepressants, blood pressure medications, sedatives and ulcer medications. Some antiandrogen medications used to treat prostate cancer can also affect your sexual performance and cause erectile dysfunction.
Usage of these medications tends to increase with age. For example, people in their 50s have a slightly higher rate of antihypertensive (blood pressure medications) use than people in their 40s or younger.
Some psychiatric disorders, emotional issues or particular beliefs about sex may cause erectile dysfunction or make existing ED symptoms worse.
These include anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, stress and concerns about sexual failure or poor sexual performance. Some people may also experience ED as a result of guilt related to having sex or engaging in certain sexual activities.
Finally, some habits and lifestyle factors can increase your risk of facing erectile dysfunction or worsen existing ED symptoms.
These include smoking cigarettes and/or other tobacco products, drinking alcohol excessively, using illicit drugs or being physically inactive.
While these habits aren’t strictly linked to your age, the negative health effects of some habits can become more significant and pronounced as you enter your 50s and beyond.
For example, research shows that cumulative cigarette long-term cigarette smoking is closely associated with several heart health issues, including some that can cause ED.
Erectile dysfunction can be frustrating to deal with, especially when it prevents you from having a fulfilling, satisfying sex life.
Luckily, erectile dysfunction is almost always treatable with medication, changes to your lifestyle or a combination of these things.
If you’ve noticed some of the symptoms of erectile dysfunction, you should talk to a healthcare provider to learn more about your treatment options.
Most of the time, ED is treatable with medication. Several medications are available to improve blood flow to your penis and treat ED. Common options include:
Modern ED medications are safe and effective for most people. However, they can cause some side effects and interactions. We’ve provided more information about these in our detailed guide to PDE5 inhibitors.
We offer several generic and brand name ED medications online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
As well as using ED medication, making changes to your habits and lifestyle can improve your sexual health and strengthen your erections. Try to:
Beyond improving your erections and sexual performance, practicing these habits may also help to improve your cardiovascular health, physical fitness and general quality of life.
Erectile dysfunction is a common issue for men in their 50s. It can occur for a variety of reasons, from physical health problems to depression, anxiety or your use of certain medications.
If you’re one of the tens of millions of men affected by ED, you can talk to a licensed healthcare provider to learn more about your options, including ED medications such as sildenafil (generic Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), avanafil (Stendra) and others.
You can also find out more about these treatments in our full guide to the most common erectile dysfunction treatments and drugs.