What is impotence?

Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, is the inability of a male to attain and keep an erection sufficiently firm to engage in or complete sexual intercourse. Although it is more common in older men, impotence can occur at any age. Impotence is not a normal consequence of aging. About 70% of erectile dysfunction is due to diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis, another 10% to 20% is due to psychological factors, and the remaining percentage is related to medications, lifestyle factors, and injury (Source: NIDDK).

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Achieving an erection is a complicated process, requiring transmission of sensations from the genital area to the nervous system and the return of nervous impulses to the muscles and blood vessels of the penis. Anything that interferes with this interchange, such as disease or injury of the blood vessels, muscles, or nerves, can make achieving and maintaining an erection difficult. Psychological factors, such as anxiety and depression, can also interfere with erectile function. Anxiety and depression may also develop as a consequence of impotence.

Fortunately, impotence is usually treatable. A thorough evaluation starting with a history and physical exam is needed to help diagnose the underlying cause. Once the cause of impotence is determined, treatment can be tailored to target that cause and any other contributing factors. Treatments used for impotence may include medications, vacuum devices, surgery, and psychotherapy.

Because impotence can be due to health problems that can affect the whole body, and because it can interfere with one’s quality of life, it is important to talk with your doctor if you have trouble attaining or maintaining an erection. With increasing discussion of impotence in the media, coupled with advances in treatment, men are now much more comfortable talking with their doctors about impotence. It is currently estimated that between 15 and 30 million men in the United States are affected by impotence (Source: NIDDK).

It is very important to seek prompt medical care if you are experiencing impotence, not only because impotence can be due to underlying health problems, but because treatment can improve your quality of life. Impotence is not a medical emergency, but it may be associated with diseases that can have serious complications.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of impotence?

Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, is the inability of a male to attain and keep an erection sufficiently firm to engage in or complete sexual intercourse. Impotence manifests differently in different individuals. You may find you are unable to achieve an erection at all, or you may be able to achieve an erection, but only briefly.... Read more about impotencesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes impotence?

Most of the time, impotence has a physical cause. Achieving an erection is a complicated process requiring your body to transmit sensations from the genital area to the nervous system and return nervous impulses to the muscles and blood vessels of the penis. Anything that interferes with this interchange, such as disease or injury of the blood vessels, muscles, or nerves, can lead to impotence. Psychological factors such as anxiety and depression can also interfere with your erectile function.... Read more about impotencecauses

TREATMENTS

How is impotence treated?

Treatment of impotence begins with a lifelong program of regular medical care, which allows your health care professional to provide early screening tests. Regular medical care also provides an opportunity for your health care professional to promptly evaluate symptoms and your risks for developing impotence. Treatment of impotence is based on its cause.... Read more about impotencetreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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This Article is Filed Under: Erectile Dysfunction, Male Reproductive System


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Erectile dysfunction is a normal part of aging.