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Everything You Need to Know about ED

Wednesday 26 May 2021
Erectile Dysfunction
5 minute(s) read
Dr.Marc Applestein

Medically reviewed by

Dr Marc Applestein, MD, MSB

on 22 February 2023

Table of Contents

I. What is Erectile Dysfunction?

II. Erectile Dysfunction Causes 

III. Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction 

IV. Diagnosing Erectile Dysfunction 

V. Treating Erectile Dysfunction 

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

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. [1] Luckily, most men who seek treatment can find relief with medications like the Viagra pill. 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. There are several medications like generic Cialis available for ED, and your doctor may help you understand the differences between Cialis vs. Viagra to find which drug is right for you.

Erectile dysfunction is characterized by the inability to attain or maintain an erection firm enough for intercourse. When sexually aroused, arterial blood vessels dilate leading to increased blood flow into the penis. At the same time, changes occur to keep the blood from exiting the erect penis, allowing for maintaining the erection. After a man reaches orgasm, the veins open up, and the blood leaves the penis. In normal penis function, nerve signals cause the proper coordination of these blood vessels.

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.

a diagram

Erectile Dysfunction Causes

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. ED may be the result of both physical and psychological problems. If a man has a minor physical condition causing his ED, this can be compounded by the anxiety associated with 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

Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms

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 many ED cases and will decide the right treatment for you. If you have ED, you may experience:

  • Trouble getting an erection
  • Trouble keeping an erection
  • Reduced sexual desire [1]
  • Orgasmic disorder

Erectile Dysfunction Tests

Because ED can be caused by a variety of conditions, your doctor will perform several tests to determine the severity of your situation. 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 look for any abnormalities.

a couple

Ultrasound: In certain circumstances, your doctor may refer you to an ultrasound specialist to assess the circulation of the penis. 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 may ask questions to screen for depression and other psychological causes that can result in ED.

Erectile Dysfunction Treatment Options

Treating ED is typically a two-fold process because of its psychological and physical components. Comparing ED treatment options with your doctor will help you understand the best option for your specific situation and needs. Contrary to popular belief, there are more erectile dysfunction treatments than just Cialis and Viagra.

ED 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. [1] You save money by purchasing Cialis online through a certified Canadian pharmacy like Canada Pharmacy Depot.

Penis Pumps

If medications are not sufficient to fix your ED, then you may need the use of a penile pump. Penis pumps are hollow tubes that are battery or hand-powered. A 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, leading to an erection. 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 placed within the penis to allow for an erection. There are two types currently available. An inflatable penile prosthesis or implant has an internal pump that - allows you to control your erection. A semi-rigid/malleable implant is a flexible rod that keeps the penis firm enough for intercourse. Depending on the patient, penile implants are not recommended until other treatment options have been exhausted.

a man at the gym

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.

The content provided in this article is based on thorough research and in some cases, reviewed by a medical professional. Our goal for the information is to provide helpful, general health informational. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.