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Men’s Health - Erectile Dysfunction Overview

Sometimes called'impotence', erectile dysfunction is the repeated inability to get or to keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. The word ‘impotence’, however, may also be used to describe other problems such as lack of sexual desire and problems with ejaculation or orgasm. Using the term erectile dysfunction makes it clear that those other problems are not involved.

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, can be a total inability to achieve erection, an inconsistent ability to do so, or a tendency to sustain only brief erections.

Erectile dysfunction is very, very common. In the United States, for example, estimates range from 15 million to 30 million cases. With the introduction of the oral drug sildenafil citrate (Viagra) in March 1998, the number of men approaching their doctors increased and discussing erectile function became more accepted.

In older men, erectile dysfunction usually has a physical cause, such as disease, injury or the side effects of drugs. Any disorder that causes injury to the nerves or impairs blood flow to the penis has the potential to cause erectile dysfunction. About 50 percent men over the age of 65 years experience erectile dysfunction. It can often be the result of decreased frequency of sexual activity, but it is not an inevitable part of aging.

Erectile dysfunction is treatable at any age and awareness of this fact has been growing. More men have been seeking help and returning to normal sexual activity because of improved, successful treatment.