Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects most men occasionally, and by the age of 70, it is thought that around 70% of men will have experienced difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. Here are some of the most common symptoms of ED to look out for.

No early morning erections

Waking up with an erection, known colloquially as ‘morning wood’, is a sign of a healthy penis. It is not a sign of sexual arousal, but rather that all the blood vessels connected to the genital area are in good working order. The medical term is ‘nocturnal penile tumescence’ and it can occur up to five times during the night.

Because the parasympathetic nervous system is more active when we are asleep, the neurotransmitters between the brain and body, which are also activated during sexual arousal, kick in. This means that the penis will sometimes become involuntarily erect, even in the absence of erotic stimulation.

If a man is not experiencing night or early morning erections, it may be a sign of ED. It’s advisable to mention it to a doctor, because it might be a sign of other serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes.

Swollen gums

Sore, painful, or swollen gums may not seem to have any obvious connection with ED, but they are a good indicator of overall health. Gum disease can cause inflammation throughout the entire body, and can eventually damage the blood vessels. Once the blood flow to the penis becomes restricted, it is much more difficult to get an erection.

Unsatisfactory sexual performance

If a man has trouble getting a firm erection, or staying hard long enough to have sexual intercourse for as long as they are used to, this could be an early warning sign of ED. It might be a temporary problem caused by stress, tiredness, anxiety, or depression, especially in younger men who are less likely to have a physical cause for ED.

However, if a man is having trouble performing in the bedroom on most occasions, it’s worth having a chat with a doctor or pharmacist about what might be at the root of the problem.

High cholesterol levels

Elevated cholesterol levels are a sign that the blood vessels are hardening, which reduces the ability for blood to flow readily to the penis. This can lead to weak erections, and may eventually mean that a man can’t get hard at all. Cholesterol levels can be reduced by a careful diet and exercise plan, and they should be monitored on a regular basis.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure is a common symptom of ED, because it means that the blood vessels find it harder to dilate. Because the penis is an extremity, and blood has to travel efficiently to reach it, ED is an early warning sign for blood pressure problems. The good news is that the condition can be reversed with a healthy diet and more physical activity, in many cases.

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