Erectile Dysfunction Causes, Symptoms & Definition

Published: August, 06 2019

causes of ed

Male erectile dysfunction is one of the most common sexual health issues in the US. Currently, 40 million men in the US experience it by the age of 40. That's 1 in 4. But, before we talk about the available treatments for ED, we have to first talk about the ED definition and what are erectile dysfunction causes.

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is the inability to achieve or sustain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. This type of sexual dysfunction is sometimes referred to as male impotence.

What are the causes of erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is related to issues with nerves, blood flow, and hormones, and can be caused by both physical and psychological factors. If a persistent erection problem occurs, it’s important to consult a doctor as it could be caused by a serious medical condition.

The most common physical erectile dysfunction causes:


Blood sugar levels that are poorly controlled, which happens with diabetes, can damage blood vessels and nerves throughout the body. This damage makes gaining and maintaining erections difficult. Men with diabetes also report lowered testosterone levels which can be another contributor to ED. Learn more about the link between diabetes and ED.

Kidney disease

ED is a common condition among male chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients, particularly in end-stage renal disease. Men with kidney failure normally become less able to keep an erection for as long as usual, although they are still able to ejaculate. Eventually, many kidney patients lose the ability to get a hard penis at all. Its prevalence is estimated to be approximately 80% among these patients.

Heart disease

The underlying causes of heart disease and ED are often the same. As with heart disease, ED is sometimes caused by a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels. Plaque buildup can develop in more than one location since the human body has one interconnected circulatory system. When the buildup restricts blood vessels supplying blood flow to the heart, the result is heart disease; when the buildup restricts blood vessels supplying the flow of blood to the penis, the result is ED.

Prostate cancer treatment

From radiation or hormone therapy to surgery, prostate cancer treatments may cause erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, decreased blood flow or a loss in penis length. Despite the severity of these side effects, most men have a great chance to regain a healthy sex life even after serious prostate cancer treatments. Learn more about the links between prostate cancer and ED, and ways to recover from erectile dysfunction.

High cholesterol

There is no scientific research that connect high cholesterol as a direct cause of ED, but the condition can lead to heart health issues, which may contribute to erection problems. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce your cholesterol levels, which may also lower your chances of developing ED.

High blood pressure

When you have high blood pressure, the arteries that carry blood to the penis don’t work as they should. They can’t dilate, or widen. Also, the smooth muscles in the penis can’t relax. Some of the medications men take for high blood pressure can also play a role in ED. Learn more about the links between high blood pressure and ED.

Tobacco, alcohol, or drug use

It’s been proven that smoking cigarettes can lead to cardiovascular dysfunction because nicotine can make your veins and arteries smaller, which makes it hard for blood to move through the body. This can lead to symptoms of erectile dysfunction or ED. Smoking marijuana can have a mix of positive and negative effects on ED.

Some prescription drugs

Pills affect everything from the nervous system and hormones to healthy blood flow. In fact, there are statistics that demonstrate nearly 25% of ED cases are caused by prescription pills. Medications known to cause erectile dysfunction include acid reflux pills, allergy pills, antidepressants and blood pressure pills. Learn more about the links between prescriptions medication and ED.

Nerve and brain disorders

Sexual desire starts in the brain and then travels down the body. Chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters send signals that increase blood flow to the body’s sex organs. If a person is struggling with depression or anxiety, an imbalance in these chemicals can result in a low or nonexistent sex drive. Medications for mood disorders can also cause undesired sexual side effects.

Pelvic injuries and surgical complications

Around half of patients report erectile dysfunction following Pelvic fracture urethral injuries (PFUIs). The anatomic commonalities of the cavernosal nerves and arteries to the bones of the pelvis and the urethra put these parts at risk when injured.

Hormonal disorders

Abnormalities in hormone production can cause ED. These include an increase in a hormone made by the pituitary gland called prolactin,. Some other abnormalities include steroid abuse by bodybuilders, too much or too little thyroid hormone, and hormones used to treat prostate cancer. In some cases, low testosterone causes ED.

Peyronie disease

A condition of the penis in which scar tissue or plaque builds up under the skin of the penis, causing it to take on a new, curved shape, especially when it’s erect. As the scar tissue builds, the new curvature of the penis can difficulties in your sex life. Learn more about the link between peyronie’s disease and ED.

Psychological Causes of ED

Psychological ED factors range from treatable mental health issues to common, day-to-day emotional states. Some of the psychological causes for ED include:


A person may feel guilty that they are not satisfying their partner, leading to guilt and performance anxiety.


Sexual arousal is entrenched in a person’s psychology. As attraction largely starts in the brain, any disturbances to the brain’s chemistry can cause problems in how the body triggers the blood flow needed to achieve an erection. Moreover, ED can cause depression - learn more about the causal relationship of ED and depression.


When you’re feeling anxious, your body is operating on the sympathetic nervous system, which tells your body not to want or have sex. The SNS disrupts hormone levels and blood flow to the genitals and can have a serious effect on thoughts and emotions. Learn more about the how stress and anxiety can cause ED.

Low self-esteem or body image

When you don't feel the best, your body doesn’t perform at it's best. Carrying extra weight can lead to body image issues which can be damaging to the psyche and affect one’s ability to perform in the bedroom. Performance anxiety and confidence issues can manifest as ED symptoms and make it difficult to get an erection.

Relationship issues

How happy you are in your relationship can impact your libido and cause ED. Decreased libido can come due to poor communication or a lack of trust. It can also happen in long term relationships, as you become more familiar with one another as sexual partners.

ED treatment options

Erectile dysfunction is common and treatable. Unfortunately, some ED treatment options, like prescription medicine, can have serious side effects and cause headaches, body aches, digestive issues, hearing loss, and vision loss. Other ED treatment options like vacuum pumps or constriction devices can cause pain and bruising. They can also be awkward to use and disrupt moments of intimacy, leading to more sexual performance issues.

Giddy was created to address the current lack of options available to men and their partners experiencing erectile dysfunction. Giddy is an FDA Registered Class II Medical device developed to address ED without prescription medicine. Giddy is patented and can help with both the physical and mental causes of erectile dysfunction.

We developed Eddie by Giddy to provide sexual stimulation for men so they can achieve safe and natural erections and improve sexual performance. We hope that our device combined with the help of simple lifestyle changes helps to treat men's sexual dysfunction without the need for medication or other harsh treatment options.

Living with erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction can be a serious obstacle for men whether they’re single and dating, or in a relationship. For many men, erectile function problems are emasculating, can damage their confidence, and can lead to feelings of guilt, depression, and anxiety.

It's important for men and their partners to communicate with each other about ED.

A common misconception about ED is that it occurs when a man isn’t attracted to his partner. But, it's important to realize that ED isn't due to a lack of sexual desire. Because of misconceptions like these, it’s important for men and their partners to communicate with each other about their sexual intercourse and stay educated on ED symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Start doing something about your ED today.

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And remember, if you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

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