Impotence

(ED; Erectile Dysfunction; Male Erectile Disorder)

Definition

Impotence is the inability to attain or maintain an erection of the penis that is firm enough for sexual intercourse.To initiate and maintain an erection, the penis must fill with blood. One type of blood vessel opens wide to allow blood into the penis. Meanwhile, a second type of blood vessel squeezes down to keep the blood from leaving the penis. Nerve signals cause the proper changes in the blood vessels.

Causes

The following factors can cause erectile dysfunction:

Venous Leak

The blood vessels that keep the blood from leaving the penis may be injured or have disease. This can cause a leak in these vessels. Blood can escape through these leaks during an erection. This means that an erection cannot occur or may not last long.

Neurovascular Function

Problems with the nerves and blood vessels can cause impotence. Conditions that can cause problems include:
  • Nerve dysfunction—can reduce feeling in the penis, resulting in impotence
  • Diabetes —interferes with nerve signals
  • Hardening of the arteries —can cause reduced blood flow
  • Peripheral neuropathy , spinal cord injury, and surgery—can damage nerves
  • Side-effects from medications—interferes with proper functioning of the blood vessels
Blood Vessels and Nerves of the Male Pelvis
Nerves, blood vessels, penis
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Psychological Factors

Many of the nerve signals needed for an erection come from the brain. Emotional problems may play a role in men who suddenly develop impotence.

Risk Factors

Impotence is more common in men who are 65 and older. It is also more common in men of Hispanic descent. Factors that increase your chance of developing impotence include:

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