ED usually has something physical behind it, particularly in older men. But psychological factors can be a factor in many cases of ED. Experts say stress, depression, poor self-esteem, and performance anxiety can short-circuit the process that leads to an erection. These factors can also make the problem worse in men whose ED stems from something physical.
Penile erection is managed by two mechanisms: the reflex erection, which is achieved by directly touching the penile shaft, and the psychogenic erection, which is achieved by erotic or emotional stimuli. The former uses the peripheral nerves and the lower parts of the spinal cord, whereas the latter uses the limbic system of the brain. In both cases, an intact neural system is required for a successful and complete erection. Stimulation of the penile shaft by the nervous system leads to the secretion of nitric oxide (NO), which causes the relaxation of smooth muscles of corpora cavernosa (the main erectile tissue of penis), and subsequently penile erection. Additionally, adequate levels of testosterone (produced by the testes) and an intact pituitary gland are required for the development of a healthy erectile system. As can be understood from the mechanisms of a normal erection, impotence may develop due to hormonal deficiency, disorders of the neural system, lack of adequate penile blood supply or psychological problems.[18] Spinal cord injury causes sexual dysfunction including ED. Restriction of blood flow can arise from impaired endothelial function due to the usual causes associated with coronary artery disease, but can also be caused by prolonged exposure to bright light.
It appears that testosterone has NOS-independent pathways as well. In one study, castrated rats were implanted with testosterone pellets and then divided into a group that received an NOS inhibitor (L-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester [L-NAME]) and a control group that received no enzyme. [24] The castrated rats that were given testosterone pellets and L-NAME still had partial erections, a result suggesting the presence of a pathway independent of NOS activity.
Performance anxiety can be another cause of impotence. If a person wasn’t able to achieve an erection in the past, he may fear he won’t be able to achieve an erection in the future. A person may also find he can’t achieve an erection with a certain partner. Someone with ED related to performance anxiety may be able to have full erections when masturbating or when sleeping, yet he isn’t able to maintain an erection during intercourse.
There is increasing interest in the group of patients who fail to respond to treatment with PDE-5 inhibitors and have low serum testosterone levels. Evidence from placebo-controlled trials in this group of men shows that testosterone treatment added to PDE-5 inhibitors improves erectile function compared to PDE-5 inhibitors alone (Aversa et al 2003; Shabsigh et al 2004).

In a randomized double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled trial, sildenafil plus testosterone was not superior to sildenafil plus placebo in improving erectile function in men with ED and low testosterone levels. [19] The objective of the study was to determine whether the addition of testosterone to sildenafil therapy improves erectile response in men with ED and low testosterone levels.

Usually there will not be a specific treatment that will lead to the improvement of erectile dysfunction. However, there are treatments that will allow erections to happen and can be used to allow sexual activity to take place. There are three main types of treatments: non-invasive treatments such as tablet medicines and external devices (e.g. vacuum device); penile injections; or for men who have not had success with other treatments, surgery may be an option.
Although vardenafil does not seem to produce significant clinical QT prolongation, it has been suggested that it be avoided in patients who have congenital QT prolongation abnormalities and in patients using class I antiarrhythmic drugs, such as quinidine and procainamide. It is also best to avoid the use of vardenafil with class III antiarrhythmic drugs, such as amiodarone or sotalol.

Testosterone is significantly correlated with aggression and competitive behaviour and is directly facilitated by the latter. There are two theories on the role of testosterone in aggression and competition.[77] The first one is the challenge hypothesis which states that testosterone would increase during puberty thus facilitating reproductive and competitive behaviour which would include aggression.[77] Thus it is the challenge of competition among males of the species that facilitates aggression and violence.[77] Studies conducted have found direct correlation between testosterone and dominance especially among the most violent criminals in prison who had the highest testosterone levels.[77] The same research also found fathers (those outside competitive environments) had the lowest testosterone levels compared to other males.[77]


^ Mehta PH, Jones AC, Josephs RA (Jun 2008). "The social endocrinology of dominance: basal testosterone predicts cortisol changes and behavior following victory and defeat" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 94 (6): 1078–93. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.336.2502. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.94.6.1078. PMID 18505319. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 19, 2009.
Mental status changes including excess aggression are a well known phenomenon in the context of anabolic steroid abuse (Perry et al 1990). An increase in self-reported aggressive behaviors have also been reported in one double blind placebo controlled trial of testosterone in young hypogonadal men (Finkelstein et al 1997), but this has not been confirmed in other studies (Skakkebaek et al 1981; O’Connor et al 2002). Aggression should therefore be monitored but in our experience is rarely a significant problem during testosterone replacement producing physiological levels.
Vacuum devices for ED, also called pumps, offer an alternative to medication. The penis is placed inside a cylinder. A pump draws air out of the cylinder, creating a partial vacuum around the penis. This causes it to fill with blood, leading to an erection. An elastic band worn around the base of the penis maintains the erection during intercourse.
Vascular damage may result from radiation therapy to the pelvis and prostate in the treatment of prostate cancer. [36] Both the blood vessels and the nerves to the penis may be affected. Radiation damage to the crura of the penis, which are highly susceptible to radiation damage, can induce ED. Data indicate that 50% of men undergoing radiation therapy lose erectile function within 5 years after completing therapy; fortunately, some respond to one of the PDE5 inhibitors.

Two of the immediate metabolites of testosterone, 5α-DHT and estradiol, are biologically important and can be formed both in the liver and in extrahepatic tissues.[147] Approximately 5 to 7% of testosterone is converted by 5α-reductase into 5α-DHT, with circulating levels of 5α-DHT about 10% of those of testosterone, and approximately 0.3% of testosterone is converted into estradiol by aromatase.[2][147][153][154] 5α-Reductase is highly expressed in the male reproductive organs (including the prostate gland, seminal vesicles, and epididymides),[155] skin, hair follicles, and brain[156] and aromatase is highly expressed in adipose tissue, bone, and the brain.[157][158] As much as 90% of testosterone is converted into 5α-DHT in so-called androgenic tissues with high 5α-reductase expression,[148] and due to the several-fold greater potency of 5α-DHT as an AR agonist relative to testosterone,[159] it has been estimated that the effects of testosterone are potentiated 2- to 3-fold in such tissues.[160]

Although vardenafil does not seem to produce significant clinical QT prolongation, it has been suggested that it be avoided in patients who have congenital QT prolongation abnormalities and in patients using class I antiarrhythmic drugs, such as quinidine and procainamide. It is also best to avoid the use of vardenafil with class III antiarrhythmic drugs, such as amiodarone or sotalol.


A vacuum erection device is a plastic tube that slips over the penis, making a seal with the skin of the body. A pump at the other end of the tube makes a low-pressure vacuum around the erectile tissue, which results in an erection. An elastic ring is then slipped onto the base of the penis. This holds the blood in the penis (and keeps it hard) for up to 30 minutes. With proper training, 75 out of 100 men can get a working erection using a vacuum erection device.
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