Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem that was once considered to mainly affect the over 60s, but is becoming increasingly common in the younger population of men. The number of men seeking treatment for the condition has more than doubled since the mid-1990s, and over a quarter of these are under the age of 40.

It is normal for men to experience the occasional difficulty in getting an erection, especially when they are tired, stressed, or have had too much to drink. More persistent problems may require medical advice or treatment. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about ED. 

What is causing ED?

ED may be caused by a range of factors that may be linked to lifestyle, certain medications, underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes, or psychological factors such as stress, depression, or low self-esteem. It can also be linked to certain medications such as specific antidepressants or blood pressure tablets.

How is ED diagnosed?

If you are experiencing frequent problems with ED, it is important to talk to a doctor. They will ask you questions about your lifestyle and may recommend a weight loss programme if you are overweight. This is because extra fat can clog up the arteries and make it more difficult for blood to flow to the penis. 

They may also do some blood tests and ask you about your alcohol consumption and mental health.  It’s vital to be completely honest with your doctor otherwise important underlying health conditions could be missed. 

If you feel uncomfortable about discussing the issue, remember that the doctor has heard it all before and will only want to help you find a solution.

Is ED inevitable as you get older?

Age is not a direct cause of ED, although the older you are the more likely you are to be affected by it because the other causes of ED become more prevalent as you get older. However, just because you are in middle age and beyond does not mean that you should just accept ED.

In fact, it’s crucial to get a persistent problem with ED checked out because it is often a sign of an underlying health problem that requires treatment to prevent it from escalating. For example, in older men, it’s frequently caused by cardiovascular disease that restricts blood flow due to hardened and narrowed arteries. 

If left untreated, it could leave you at risk of a heart attack. Type 2 diabetes is another common cause of ED, and also has serious consequences if left untreated.

Can ED be treated?

There are several treatments for ED, depending on what is causing it. It’s best to tackle any lifestyle issues such as diet and exercise alongside treatment. You may be prescribed oral medications such as sildenafil (the trade name for Viagra) or a topical gel called Eroxon Stimgel, which is applied externally to the penis.