Understanding ED

Wednesday 26 May 2021
Erectile Dysfunction
5 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Symptoms of ED

II. Why does ED occur?

III. Diagnosis

IV. How can I treat ED?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition that many men experience in their lifetime. Over 30 million men in the United States are affected by this condition on a continuing basis. Luckily, most men who seek treatment can find relief with medications like Cialis. Psychological problems or pre-existing health conditions can cause ED. In some severe cases, ED may be an early warning sign of heart or vascular problems.

Men may feel embarrassed to talk to their doctor about ED, but treatment for ED is vital to your health and relationships. Read on to learn more about erectile dysfunction and the treatments available. [1]

Symptoms of ED

Erectile dysfunction is characterized by the inability to attain or maintain an erection firm enough for intercourse. When sexually aroused, a blood vessel opens wide to allow blood into the penis and squeezes down to keep the blood from leaving the penis. When a man reaches orgasm, the vessel opens up again, and the blood leaves the penis. In normal penis function, nerve signals cause the proper coordination of these blood vessels. [2] If you have ED, you may experience:

  • Trouble getting an erection
  • Trouble keeping an erection
  • Reduced sexual desire

You may want to see a doctor if you have concerns about your erections, heart disease, or diabetes. These conditions are most commonly linked to ED. Your doctor has likely seen hundreds of ED cases and will decide the right treatment for you.

a diagram showing the difference between a flaccid and erect penis

Why does ED occur?

A man’s sexual arousal is a complicated process, and if one part of the cycle malfunctions, it can have a significant impact on a man’s sex life. Typically, ED is the result of both physical and psychological problems. If a man has a minor physical condition causing his ED, it can be compounded by the anxiety caused by the inability to maintain an erection.

Physical causes of ED

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
  • Tobacco use
  • Sleep disorders
  • Alcoholism

Psychological causes of ED

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Relationship problems, poor communication with partner
  • Work or social stress


Because ED can be caused by dozens of factors, your doctor will perform several tests to determine the severity of your condition. When you first tell your doctor about your ED, they will likely perform a physical exam and ask you several questions about your medical history. Tests may include:

Blood tests: A blood sample can help determine if you have signs of heart disease, diabetes, low testosterone levels, and other potentially dangerous health conditions.

Physical exam: Your doctor will carefully examine your penis and testicles to make sure the nerves are working correctly.

Ultrasound: Your doctor will probably refer you to an ultrasound specialist for this procedure. The specialist will use a wand-like device on the penis to ensure that the blood vessels are supplying enough blood to the penis.

Psychological exam: Along with your medical history, your doctor will want to know about your mental health. Your doctor will ask questions to screen for depression and other psychological causes that can result in ED. [3]

a man and woman standing together 

How can I treat ED?

Treating ED is typically a two-fold process because of its psychological and physical components. There are various treatment options for those with ED, and your doctor will explain the risks and benefits of each one.

Oral Medications

Oral medications are typically the first line of treatment. Drugs like Cialis and Viagra are commonly prescribed to treat symptoms of ED. Cialis, also known as tadalafil, works by increasing blood flow to the penis when a man becomes sexually aroused. This reaction helps a man get and keep an erection. Your doctor will determine which medications are right for you, depending on your medical conditions and other health problems. [4] 

Penis Pumps

If medications are not sufficient in fixing your ED, then you may need the use of penis pumps or penile implants. Penis pumps are hollow tubes that are battery or hand-powered. The tube is placed over the penis and the pump is used to suck out the air inside the tube. Sucking out the air creates a vacuum that pulls blood inside the penis. Once you achieve an erection with this method, the erection typically lasts long enough to have sex.

Penile Implant

In more severe cases of ED, a penile implant may be necessary. An implant is a surgical device that is either inflatable or a malleable rod. The inflatable device allows you to control how long you have an erection, while the malleable rod keeps the penis firm but bendable. Penile implants are not recommended until other treatment options have been exhausted.

a man standing by a set of weights

Lifestyle changes

If your ED is linked to obesity or tobacco use, you may need to make changes in your day to day habits. Some studies have found that exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can help improve erectile dysfunction. It is vital to raise your heart rate, which is beneficial to your overall body health. Smoking has a massive impact on blood vessels, which can hinder blood flow to the penis. Talk to your doctor to discuss exercise plans and medications that may help you kick your smoking habit.


If your erectile dysfunction is affecting your mental health, there are several treatments available. You can seek the help of a licensed counselor who can help you find the root cause of stressors that are affecting your sex life. It is often helpful if you and your partner seek counseling together to strengthen communication in and out of the bedroom. [3]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


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