UW Health urologists with advanced training offer medical and surgical treatment options for men and their partners affected by erectile dysfunction. There are several different ways that erectile dysfunction can be treated. For some men, making a few healthy lifestyle changes may solve the problem. Your urologist will help determine the most effective course of treatment for your condition. 

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Obesity. Obesity itself is not a risk factor for ED — but there is a connection. “The bigger concern is that obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes or vascular diseases, which are risk factors for ED,” says Montague. Morbid obesity, a term used to classify individuals who are significantly overweight, can cause hormonal changes that are triggered by excess body fat. In addition, obesity can put physical limitations on sexual intercourse.
"One of the reasons erectile dysfunction increases with age is that the diseases that lead to it also increase with age," notes Dr. Feloney. Evaluating the causes of erectile dysfunction starts with your doctor taking a good health history and giving you a physical exam. Common medical issues that can lead to erectile dysfunction include diabetes, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, low testosterone, and neurological disease. Talk to your doctor about better managing these health conditions.
While physical anatomy and chemical reaction are both important for getting and keeping an erection, the brain is one of the most vital parts of this puzzle. "An erection is controlled by multiple areas of your brain, including the hypothalamus, limbic system and cerebral cortex," notes Axe. "Stimulatory messages are sent to your spinal erection centers and this facilitates an erection. When there's an issue with your brain's ability to send these important messages, it can increase the smooth muscle tone in your penis and prevent the relaxation that is necessary to get an erection."
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Something James, 26, knows for sure about his penis is that it won’t get hard when he’s sleeping with a woman for the first time. No, it has nothing to do with how attracted he is to her. It’s just a classic case of performance anxiety, caused by his personal fears about how awkward and uncomfortable the experience could be—which, of course, turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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The American Medical Association (AMA) estimates that more than 30 million men in the US experience ED. And they expect that number to double by 2025, largely due to the fact that erectile dysfunction is affecting more and more guys in their 20’s and 30’s. ED in your 20’s is becoming more common, and that can signal some serious health risks to a growing number of young men.
There are many factors that can lead to ED. “Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction in young men can include performance anxiety, guilt about sex in general, guilt about having sex with a particular partner, feelings of anger or resentment towards a partner, or simply finding a partner undesirable,” said Carole Lieberman, MD, a psychiatrist on the clinical faculty of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute in Los Angeles.

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Relationship problems often complicate erectile dysfunction. Improving your relationship may be part of the solution. It may be a good idea to get counseling together from a sex therapist, marriage counselor, or a medical specialist. "I almost always see couples together to discuss erectile dysfunction. It often turns out that both partners have issues regarding the sexual relationship and once they are out in the open, couples can work together on a more satisfying sexual experience," says Feloney.
"Some physical problems that can lead to weak erections are the inability of your brain to send signals to your penis, which can be caused by neurological conditions like MS, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's," adds Axe. "Studies suggest that stress, anxiety and depression can produce major chemical changes in your brain, leading to the inability of smooth muscles to relax and allow for an erection. On top of this, researchers have also indicated that the failure to achieve an erection can aggravate a man's anxiety levels, leading to a vicious cycle."

Performance anxiety: Perhaps the most common cause of erectile problems among younger guys is performance anxiety. Many cultures place pressure on men to be the "experts" when it comes to sex, which can make men feel like they have to be responsible for sex or know how to please their partner every time. This pressure can be stressful and make it more difficult to get or maintain an erection.


Improve your nutrition. Certain foods, such as those that are fatty, fried, sugary, and processed, can result in decreased blood flow throughout your body and can contribute to a vascular form of erectile dysfunction. Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats to improve your blood circulation and increase the amount of time you’re able to maintain an erection.
Having erection trouble from time to time isn't necessarily a cause for concern. If erectile dysfunction is an ongoing issue, however, it can cause stress, affect your self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems. Problems getting or keeping an erection can also be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs treatment and a risk factor for heart disease.
Occasional ED is common in all men, including young and healthy men. But if you have a persistent or recurrent problem with initiating or maintaining an erection and it's causing you or your partner distress, talk to your doctor. “Lack of nighttime erections is another cause for concern, said Wang. These occurrences serve to nourish the penis with oxygen and keeping the blood supply healthy, he explained. "Young men should get four or five of these a night. If you are not getting these and you are having frequent problems with ED, you need to check in with your doctor,” he recommended.
These specific chemicals are found in erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra and Cialis."The chemicals that cause the outflow are called phosphodiesterases," says Reitano. "To give you a stronger erection, erectile dysfunction medications (PDE-5 inhibitors) block or inhibit the phosphodiesterases, which enables the blood vessels in the penis to stay open and receive more blood, creating a firmer and longer lasting erection. This is why the drugs are called phosphodiesterase inhibitors (PDE-5 inhibitors for short)."
Having these factors work in tandem all at once is key. "So many things have to go right for you to achieve a strong erection, which is why the strength of a man's erection is a great indicator for their overall health," explains Reitano. "For starters, your hormones must be released on demand, your arteries need to carry blood to the penis with perfect efficiency, your nervous system must transmit its signals without a hitch, and your mind must be working in perfect harmony with your body. That is a lot to ask of your body on demand."
The blood vessels in your penis are smaller than the larger veins and arteries in other parts of your body. What that means is the first sign of hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, and clogged arteries may not be a stroke or a heart attack. It will often be erectile dysfunction. Regular physical activity reduces your risks for cardiovascular disease (which is awesome), but it also lowers your risk for ED. If there’s a better reason to sweat through a spin class, I can’t think of one.

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You should speak with a doctor before trying any medication that's meant to help with stronger erections. If you're looking to go that route, there are plenty of prescription drug options that have been engineered to help with this issue. "In terms of conventional treatment for erectile dysfunction, medications called PDE5-inhibitors are commonly prescribed," says Dr Axe. "Four PDE5-inhibitors that have been approved for use in the United States include sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil and avanafil."
Mention older men’s wilting erections, and people immediately think Viagra. Yes, Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, can raise flags that have fallen to half staff. But fewer than half of men over 50 have tried them, and of those, fewer than half have renewed their prescriptions. Why? Because the drugs don’t work as well as advertised, and the side effects can be annoying.

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Mention older men’s wilting erections, and people immediately think Viagra. Yes, Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, can raise flags that have fallen to half staff. But fewer than half of men over 50 have tried them, and of those, fewer than half have renewed their prescriptions. Why? Because the drugs don’t work as well as advertised, and the side effects can be annoying.
It’s important not to take a bout of psychological ED personally. Still, when confronting a suddenly soft penis in the moment, “It’s not you” can be hard to believe. For instance, Erin, 22, tried—really tried—to make sex with Drew* happen. The first time his erection died right before they were about to have sex, she improvised and gave him “really long” oral instead. But the lack of a boner was confusing. “That had never happened to me with a sexual partner, so I was like, ‘Okay, he’s just not into me,’” Erin recalls.
For many older men, issues like diabetes, hypertension and heart attacks are often contributing factors to erectile dysfunction. But Goldstein said that in younger men, ED is far more likely to stem from physical trauma. This could be the result of a sports injury, such as a misplaced karate kick, a surfboard hitting the wrong area or long-distance bike riding. It could also be a result of a sexual injury. (This is most common during heterosexual intercourse, especially in the woman-on-top position, the sex position dubbed "most dangerous" by a 2015 study.)

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