Causes of Impotence

Although it is often a source of shame and stigma, impotence, also known as erectile dysfunction or ED, is a relatively common condition affecting over 10% of men in the United States. The impotent definition includes difficulty obtaining, maintaining, and sustaining an erection that is needed to satisfactorily complete sexual activity. Causes of impotence include environmental, physical, and psychological factors that can affect men regardless of their age. Often times, these factors can overlap and interplay off of each other to cause impotence in young men as well as older men. Common causes of impotence include but are not limited to:

  • Chemical causes from using alcohol, tobacco and certain prescription medications. For example, the chemicals in tobacco can damage the arterioles in the penis, which prevents the muscles in the penis from relaxing naturally. In fact, smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to experience impotence!

    Furthermore, high doses of alcohol depress the central nervous system, which is involved in creating and sustaining erections. Chronic alcoholics can experience difficulties with erection even when alcohol is not present in their system. Finally, a variety of prescription drugs can interfere with the ability to create and maintain erections.

    These include benzodiazepines like Valium, diuretics, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac, and drugs commonly prescribed to treat hypertension.

  • Certain medical conditions, and physical traumas. Often times, these causes tend to overlap with one another. For example, diabetes, can damage the nerves and blood vessels involved in physical arousal, and obesity is linked to a preventable form of diabetes known as type II diabetes.

    Hypertension, spinal cord injuries, cardiovascular disease, and bicycling accidents are also common causes of impotence as well.

  • Psychological causes such as anxiety, stress, and depression. Often times hardships such as stress at work, unemployment, financial difficulties, relationship difficulties, or grief can affect the brain chemicals involved in sexual arousal.

    Sometimes, stressful situations can cause anxiety or depressive disorders, which impact sexual arousal. For example, depressed men are at an increased risk of experiencing impotence than non-depressed men.

However, these causes are treatable; being impotent does not have to be permanent.





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