Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
What are the symptoms of erectile dysfunction?
Symptoms of ED include
- being able to get an erection sometimes, but not every time you want to have sex
- being able to get an erection, but not having it last long enough for sex
- being unable to get an erection at any time
ED is often a symptom of another health problem or health-related factor.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Many different factors affecting your vascular system, nervous system, and endocrine system can cause or contribute to ED.
Although you are more likely to develop ED as you age, aging does not cause ED. ED can be treated at any age.
Certain diseases and conditions
The following diseases and conditions can lead to ED:
- type 2 diabetes
- heart and blood vessel disease
- high blood pressure
- chronic kidney disease
- multiple sclerosis
- Peyronie’s disease
- injury from treatments for prostate cancer, including radiation therapy and prostate surgery
- injury to the penis, spinal cord, prostate, bladder, or pelvis
- surgery for bladder cancer
Men who have diabetes are two to three times more likely to develop ED than men who do not have diabetes. Read more about diabetes and sexual and urologic problems.
Taking certain medicines
ED can be a side effect of many common medicines, such as
- blood pressure medicines
- antiandrogens—medicines used for prostate cancer therapy
- tranquilizers, or prescription sedatives—medicines that make you calmer or sleepy
- appetite suppressants, or medicines that make you less hungry
- ulcer medicines
View a list of specific medicines that may cause ED.
Certain psychological or emotional issues
Psychological or emotional factors may make ED worse. You may develop ED if you have one or more of the following:
- fear of sexual failure
- guilt about sexual performance or certain sexual activities
- low self-esteem
- stress—about sexual performance, or stress in your life in general
Certain health-related factors and behaviors
The following health-related factors and behaviors may contribute to ED:
- drinking too much alcohol
- using illegal drugs
- being overweight
- not being physically active
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
The NIDDK would like to thank:
Tom Lue, M.D., University of California San Francisco