In this article, we will talk about erectile dysfunction risk factors or the causes of problems of erections. So what are the risk factors or causes that lead to erectile dysfunction?
Typically, ED causes are lumped into two buckets: physical and psychological causes. Interestingly in the 1950s and 60s, the work of Masters and Johnson tended to blame psychological problems on about 90% of men with ED. Now, in the modern-day, we know that this is probably exactly reversed, and 90% of rectal dysfunction comes from physical problems, whereas 10% is purely psychological.
That being said, they often affect one another, and both psychological causes can cause physical problems and vice versa – performance anxiety can become a real thing if you have one bad night with erection problems. It’s also important to remember that age does not necessarily cause ED, so it is true that problems with erections become more common as you get older. But why is that? Well, it’s because we tend to get more other medical problems the older we get. If you take good care of yourself, you can still have a very active and healthy sex life.
Independent of the origins of erectile dysfunction: whether it’s psychologic, physical, or both, it tends to cause dissatisfaction, stress, and anxiety, embarrassment or low self-esteem, relationship problems, and practically speaking, can cause problems with fertility or getting your partner pregnant.
The physical causes of erectile dysfunction come from primarily two places:
#1 Problems with the smooth muscle relaxation of the penis.
The penis muscle is always contracted, and only when you want to get an erection, this muscle have to relax and allows blood flow into the area. In order for the smooth muscle to relax, there has to be a signal traveling along the spinal cord and the nerve pathways. Once the blood vessels dilate, blood has to flow in, and blood has to be trapped in the penis to keep the erection.
All these causes can lead to problems with either relaxation of the smooth muscle, arterial inflow or venous trapping, or a combination of those things.
#2 Venous trapping.
The penis is like a bike tire, and in order for the bike tire to be inflated, assuming it’s flat to start with, you have to pump the air in. In this case, the analogies to that of blood, the faster the air flows in or the better the blood flow to the area, the faster direction is going to occur, putting air or blood into the penis or bike tire, respectively.
Imagine, if there were holes in the bike tire, no matter how much air you pumped in, the bike tire would never get hard because the air would leak out after a certain point of filling. That’s what also happens to some men with something called a venous leak.
This integrity of this outside lining the penis is compromised, and so now, when you try to get her to keep an erection, blood flows out at the same rate that it’s flowing in, so it can never really get hard. Men who have problems with the penis leak will tend to have no problems getting an erection, and they’ll get a partial response, but then they can’t get a full erection, or it goes away very quickly.
What are some specific medical problems that lead to problems with erections or risk factors?
First of all – medications. Unfortunately, there are medications that we have to take because of medical problems like high blood pressure or depression that end up causing problems with erections. The most common offenders are beta-blockers, antidepressants, and one that is often used too often in this country based on the opioid or narcotics.
Narcotics are a really common cause of problems with erections. It turns out that pain medication chronically downregulates your ability to produce testosterone, and this leads to problems with all of the systems mentioned. So, chronic narcotic use can cause problems in directions.
High cholesterol also causes problems with erections because it tends to clog the blood vessels with cholesterol, and the same thing for high blood pressure. High blood pressure itself can cause problems, but the treatment for high blood pressure is even more of a problem because of the beta-blockers. So both the disease and the treatment for it cause problems.
Neurologic disorders like Parkinson’s disease in multiple sclerosis affect the nerves, which affect the initial signal going to the penis.
We can also put long lump obesity and metabolic syndrome into the same bin, so if you’re too heavy, you tend to develop this condition called metabolic syndrome.
The next factor is high insulin levels. You get a lot of body fat around the waist and develop high cholesterol – all these things gang up against you and negatively affect the penis.
People who don’t get good sleep also problems with erections. There’s some interesting data on shift workers and their problems with testosterone levels and erections.
Peyronie’s disease is a bend of the penis due to scar tissue, and this can also cause problems of erections.
Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse can also cause problems with erections. Modest to minor consumption of alcohol is not affiliated with erections problems, but anytime it becomes more of a serious issue, and the penis will suffer.
Of course, surgeries are injuries that affect the pelvic area, or spinal cord can cause problems with erections.
But the top three causes deserve special attention:
#1 Heart disease
It turns out that the penis is a very sensitive predictor of problems with heart disease. If you’re a young man, anybody less than age 50, who develops erectile dysfunction that doesn’t go away after a few months, you should have your heart checked out because the blood vessels going to the penis are smaller than the blood vessels going to the heart.
If you have problems with erections, it’s just a matter of time before you’re also going to have problems with blockage going to the heart, which can cause a heart attack.
Diabetes is one of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction in the United States. This is related to obesity, being too heavy, but when you have diabetes for many years, you can rarely get good erections without the help of pills or more advanced treatments.
#3 Prostate cancer
Any treatment for prostate cancer, whether it’s a prostatectomy which is surgery, radiation, brachytherapy, cold therapy, or cryotherapy to the prostate hormonal therapy – all these different treatments for prostate cancer cause collateral damage and that that typically would cause problems of the reactions.
When we look at men with severe problems with erectile dysfunction, the vast majority of guys have one of these three causes as their underlying problems of erectile dysfunction, either:
- They had a prostate surgery of some kind
- They have diabetes that’s been long how long-standing or
- They have vascular problems, heart disease, etc.
As you get older, it is not inevitable that you’ll get problems with erections. Many studies show that eighty-year-olds are having sex very often without the need for medications. Why? Because they are overall very healthy. If you take good care of your penis – your penis will take good care of you.
Any good activity for your heart is also good for your penis, so stopping smoking, exercise, eating more fruits and vegetables, losing some weight, avoiding stress, and getting better sleep. All these things are not only going to be good for your overall health or your heart health, but it’s also going to improve your sex life.