Content Medically Reviewed by Adrian Rawlinson, MD, VP of Medical Affairs at Hims
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is the inability to achieve and maintain a firm enough erection for sexual activity.
ED is a very common type of sexual dysfunction that affects hundreds of millions of men of all ages. In fact, statistics from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study show that about 52% of men experience erectile dysfunction at some point in life.
As a man, it’s normal to occasionally have trouble getting or keeping an erection. However, if you frequently have difficulty getting an erection or maintaining a firm erection during sex, you might have ED.
Erectile dysfunction can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, a psychological issue or nervousness can trigger ED. In other cases, ED can be a sign that you might also have an underlying health problem.
Factors like your use of tobacco products, other medications or alcohol can also contribute to erection issues, making it harder for you to maintain a fulfilling sex life.
When ED occurs at a bad moment, it can affect your self-confidence. Luckily, ED is one of the easiest sexual dysfunctions to treat. Today, a variety of safe, FDA-approved medications and non-pharmaceutical treatments are available to help men of all ages treat ED.
The most common symptom of erectile dysfunction is difficulty developing and maintaining an erection during sex. Persistent erectile dysfunction can also affect your sexual confidence and potentially cause you to become less interested in sexual activity.
Erectile dysfunction can make it difficult for you to get an erection, even if you’re in the mood for sex. ED can range in severity -- sometimes, you might find it difficult to get any erection, while in other cases you might find it difficult to get a firm enough erection for sex.
Erectile dysfunction can make it difficult for you to maintain an erection during sex. Many men can get an erection before sexual activity without difficulty, but find it difficult or impossible to keep a firm erection during sex.
If you have erectile dysfunction, it can affect your self-confidence and make you avoid sexual activity. Many men with erectile dysfunction feel less interested in sex and lose some or all of their motivation to pursue sexual relationships.
If you’re worried that you might have erectile dysfunction, it’s best to talk to your doctor as soon as you experience multiple incidents in which you have difficulty getting or keeping an erection during sex.
It’s especially important to talk to your doctor if you’ve had persistent difficulty with erections that has lasted for several months.
It’s very normal to experience one-off, occasional issues maintaining an erection, especially if you’ve consumed alcohol or taken other medication prior to sex. If you have trouble getting or maintaining an erection once every few weeks or months, you might not have ED.
Erectile dysfunction is an extremely common condition that affects men of all ages. Your doctor will be able to work out if your erectile dysfunction is caused by a physical health problem or a psychological issue, then provide an appropriate treatment.
Erectile dysfunction can develop for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, erectile dysfunction is a sign that you might have an underlying cardiovascular health issue. In other cases, ED can be caused by psychological factors such as anxiety or nervousness about sex.
To diagnose erectile dysfunction, your doctor will ask about ED symptoms you’ve experienced and how long they’ve persisted. Your doctor might also ask about your long-term health history to determine if you have any risk factors for ED.
As part of the diagnosis, your doctor might ask you to complete a physical examination. Factors such as your blood pressure, heart function and prostate health can all contribute to ED, making a complete physical important for identifying the root cause.
Although conversation about your symptoms and in-person testing are usually enough for your doctor to diagnose erectile dysfunction, you might also be asked to complete a nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) test.
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Most of the time, erectile dysfunction is easy to treat. To treat ED, your doctor will look at your symptoms and the potential cause of your ED, then either prescribe medication or recommend an option such as therapy or preventative lifestyle changes to help you get the best results.
Changing your lifestyle and habits can help you prevent erectile dysfunction. If you already have ED, making healthy changes to your lifestyle might also improve your symptoms and help you to have a normal sex life without the use of medication.
The most effective preventative lifestyle changes for ED include:
Sometimes, changing your habits and lifestyle is all it takes to treat erectile dysfunction and improve your sexual performance. In other cases, your doctor might prescribe medication to treat your ED.
Currently, there are several safe, proven, FDA-approved medications used to treat erectile dysfunction. The most common are sildenafil (best known as Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra).
Erectile dysfunction isn’t always caused by physiological factors. From depression to anxiety, many cases of erectile dysfunction have their root cause in psychological factors that change the way you think about sex.
If your erectile dysfunction is caused by a psychological problem, there are several treatment options that you can use. They include:
In addition to medication, lifestyle changes and psychological treatment, there are several other ways to treat erectile dysfunction:
There are are also several other erectile dysfunction treatments currently being researched for potential use in the future, including topical creams and drugs that work via the central nervous system to improve erection quality.
Interested in learning more about erectile dysfunction? Our guides to the most common erectile dysfunction medications, the main causes of erectile dysfunction and talking about ED with your partner cover three important aspects of treating erectile dysfunction.
Do not take Sildenafil (sildenafil citrate) if you:
are allergic to sildenafil, as contained in Sildenafil and REVATIO, or any of the ingredients in Sildenafil
Discuss your health with your doctor to ensure that you are healthy enough for sex. If you experience chest pain, dizziness, or nausea during sex, seek immediate medical help
Sildenafil can cause serious side effects. Rarely reported side effects include:
sudden hearing decrease or hearing loss. Some people may also have ringing in their ears (tinnitus) or dizziness. If you have these symptoms, stop taking Sildenafil and contact a doctor right away
Before you take Sildenafil, tell your healthcare provider if you:
have kidney problems or are having kidney dialysis have any other medical conditions
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Sildenafil may affect the way other medicines work, and other medicines may affect the way Sildenafil works, causing side effects. Especially tell your healthcare provider if you take any of the following:
Sildenafil contains sildenafil, which is the same medicine found in another drug called REVATIO. REVATIO is used to treat a rare disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Sildenafil should not be used with REVATIO or with other PAH treatments containing sildenafil or any other PDE5 inhibitors (such as Adcirca tadalafil)
Sildenafil does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
The most common side effects of Sildenafil: headache; flushing; upset stomach; abnormal vision, such as changes in color vision (such as having a blue color tinge) and blurred vision; stuffy or runny nose; back pain; muscle pain; nausea; dizziness; rash.
Sildenafil (sildenafil citrate) is prescription medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED).
Sildenafil is not for women or children.