Symptoms and Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Does your partner complain about you going limp too quickly? Or are you starting to find difficulty in getting an erection altogether? You may be experiencing a symptom of erectile dysfunction (ED). Read on to find out more about the symptoms and causes of ED.

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First let’s understand how an erection works

Our penis has two erection chambers that are made of spongy muscle tissues. The chambers extend from the penile head all the way into the pelvis. When we are sexually aroused, our brain sends a signal which causes a hormonal response, allowing the arteries that supply blood to our penis to open fully.


When these arteries are open, blood enters at a rate so fast that it does not have enough time to exit through the veins. Blood is then trapped in the chambers, which results in your penis becoming firm – and voila, an erection occurs.


Once you achieve an orgasm, the hormonal response stops, because your brain is no longer sending signals of sexual arousal. The arteries return to their normal state, the spongy muscle tissues contract, your erection comes down, and your penis is once again flaccid.

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Do I actually have ED?

The symptoms of ED are quite straight-forward. They include having trouble getting an erection, not being able to keep the erection for long, or even experiencing a reduced desire for sexual activities. However, do keep in mind that it is completely normal if this happens occasionally! This is because there are certain triggers that could contribute to these symptoms. For example, we may have had one too many drinks, consumed certain drugs, feel depressed or even just exhausted from work. It is not a warning sign that you have ED, so there is no need to worry. The need to be concerned is if you are experiencing these symptoms more than half the time you have intercourse or find that it is taking a toll on your relationship or well-being.

So what happens in ED?

Erectile dysfunction is, put simply, the inability to get or maintain an erection long or firm enough for sexual intercourse. It can happen at any stage of the erection process.

The culprit of impotence

The cause of impotence can be from physical issues or psychological reasons. In most cases, it is a mix of both.


Physical causes, also the most common cause of ED, are ones that arise from health issues such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.


Psychological causes, on the other hand, are less common as only one in ten cases of persistent ED are psychologically connected. Psychological causes are mental issues that affect your ability to achieve an erection. As we just covered the importance of our brain in sending signals to help us get an erection, any disruption to this process can cause ED. Common psychological issues include depression, stress, anxiety or even feeling nervous to perform.


Here are some common causes of ED:

  • The blood flow into your penis is insufficient - health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or hardened arteries reduces the blood flow into the penis which makes it difficult to get an erection.
  • Damage to the spongy muscle tissue - when a man has gone through radiation treatment or surgery near the pelvis or lower abdomen (i.e prostate, bladder or colorectal cancer), it often leads to ED.
  • Your brain is not sending the correct signals to your penis or the signals are not reaching your penis. This can happen due to neurological diseases, injury or surgery in the pelvic area where the nerves to the penis are harmed.
  • Diabetes – if you have diabetes, it can cause small vessel disease or even nerve damage to the penis which affects your ability to achieve an erection.

Is my cause of ED physical or psychological?

Physical causes of ED usually occur over a span of time (months or years), and it is often a gradual loss in function. If you are getting random hard-ons in the morning (morning wood), or overnight, then the cause of your ED could be psychological. In most cases, it is a mix of both so the best way to find out is by consulting a doctor.

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Published On
June 7, 2021

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