Medical Conditions That Can Contribute To ED

Medically reviewed by Mr Craig Marsh
Written by Sonya Neville
Last reviewed 16/11/2021
4 minute read
Medically reviewed by Mr Craig Marsh
Written by David Parker
Last reviewed 16/11/2021
4 minute read

More often than not.

Erectile dysfunction is the symptom of something else.

That might be a physical or mental health condition. Or a combination of both.

While many experts now recognise how serious ED can be, it is rare to find it is not connected with something like a health condition or lifestyle choice.

Fortunately, ED can often lead doctors to more serious discoveries in relation to their patients’ health.

In this article, we’ll talk about the medical conditions that can contribute to ED.

Physical causes

Of the causes of ED, physical health conditions account for the most. By far.

They are:

  • Cardiovascular disease (which makes up 40.82% of all physical causes)
  • Diabetes (33.67%)
  • Hormone imbalances (11.23%)
  • Neurological disorders (10.2%)
  • Pelvic surgery or trauma (3.06%)
  • Anatomical abnormalities (1.02%)

1. Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term. CVD is any condition which relates to the heart or blood vessels.
Types of CVD can include heart disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease or aortic disease. These are all health conditions.

Certain conditions or lifestyle choices are ‘risk factors’ for CVD, meaning they can feed into it or even cause it. These include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, living a sedentary lifestyle or being overweight or obese.

People with a family history of CVD are also more at risk. Other risk factors include age, gender, diet and alcohol.

Cardiovascular disease - high blood pressure

One of the most common types of cardiovascular disease is high blood pressure (HBP).

HBP is measured in two ways. First is the force at which your heart pushes out blood. This is called systolic pressure. Second is the resistance to blood flow in the vessels. This is called diastolic pressure.

Both of these variables are measured in millimetres of mercury, which is shown as ‘mmHg.’ Roughly, HBP is when a person has 140/90mmHg or higher.

Ample blood pressure should be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.

Having consistently high blood pressure puts parts of your body at strain. This can include the vessels, heart and vital organs, including the brain. This increases the risk of many other health conditions including:

  • Vascular dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Kidney disease
  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure

ED can be a symptom of all those health conditions.

33% of people have blood pressure and most won’t even realise. It’s highly recommended people 30 or older get their blood pressure checked every 5 years or so. There are steps you can take to get blood pressure back on track if it is too high.

2. Diabetes

ED can be common in men who suffer from diabetes. This is particularly the case for those suffering with Type 2 diabetes.

This is when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, or the cells in the body cannot use the insulin it does make.

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes can include needing to urinate more often than normal, especially at night, feeling constantly thirsty, fatigue, unexpected weight loss, itching near your penis (or vagina for woman), thrush, cuts or wounds that take longer to heal or blurred vision.

Certain people are more at risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. These include people of African Caribbean, black African, South Asian or Chinese origin. Older people, those who are overweight or those with a family history of diabetes are also at risk.

Diabetes is thought to damage the nerves and blood vessels, which is a key cause of ED. Fortunately, Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be avoided simply by making better lifestyle choices surrounding what you eat, how much you exercise, drink and not smoking.

3. Hormone imbalances

Hormone levels can interfere with erections. Two are thought to be particularly troublesome.

One of which is called prolactin. This hormone is found in women too, and helps to oversee the production of breast milk. Men have it too, and we’re not exactly sure why. But some evidence does suggest high levels of prolactin in men could be a risk factor for ED.

Testosterone, a more well-known hormone, can also cause ED. Low levels of testosterone are thought to interfere with a man’s ability to get or maintain an erection.

Evidence shows that testosterone in men reduces as they age, by roughly 2% each year. This is just another reason why ED can become more likely with age.

Symptoms of low testosterone aren’t always clear or straightforward. But they may include ED, low sex drive, loss of or an inability to grow body and facial hair, loss of lean muscle, fatigue, weight gain or symptoms of depression.

4. Neurological disorders

Not to be confused with mental health conditions, which we’ll move onto further down.

A ‘neurological disorder’ refers to any condition which impacts the nervous system. This includes the brain, nerves or spinal cord.

Technically, even a migraine or headache is a neurological disorder (and can be symptoms of something more severe if you get them regularly). More serious neurological disorders can include things like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

ED can be a symptom of neurological disorders, and may be the precursor to one. Not only this, but suffering from certain neurological conditions can impact how aroused you feel.

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5. Pelvic surgery or trauma

The pelvis is a group of bones just above the legs and below the spinal cord. It’s mostly made up of your hips, but other, smaller bones are present too.

Though not strictly a condition, certain medical procedures need to be conducted through the pelvis, such as surgery of the prostate or bladder. These are often very intricate and technical. Nerve damage is possible. This can cause erectile dysfunction.

Similarly with trauma. Any kind of severe shock or blow to the pelvis can result in damaged nerves and vessels. This can impact erections.

6. Anatomical abnormalities

Every penis is unique.

Some men are born with abnormally-shaped penises or defects. These can also develop later in life.

This can cause ED, though only a very small proportion of men suffer in this way.

One example of this is a tight foreskin. When the penis expands in moments of arousal, this can be very painful for men with tight foreskins.

If you’re worried about the shape, feel or look of your penis, try not to worry.

Speak with a doctor. It’s likely they will know instantly whether something isn’t quite right. If not, they will offer advice and make recommendations based on this.

Psychological health conditions.

Can impact erections too.

Mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety can also cause erectile dysfunction.

Sometimes, physical health conditions that cause ED will bring about periods of depression or anxiety, and this just makes the problem worse.

Mental health is something men struggle to come forward and talk about. It’s also the single biggest killer of men under 40. It’s a big problem, with no clear cut answers or solutions.

Other symptoms of depression may include experiencing anger, aggression or a difficulty to process strong emotion, feeling ‘on the edge’, loss of interest in work and relationships, reduced sex drive, feeling empty, sad or without hope, memory loss, fatigue, weight gain or loss, sleep problems and more.

It’s vital if you think you may be suffering with depression or another mental health illness that you feel comfortable speaking to your doctor. They will only want to help.

They can offer advice, refer you to specialists and therapists, recommend lifestyle changes and prescribe medicine if necessary.

Our prescribers are available to chat, too. If for any reason no one responds instantly, leave a message and we will get back to you.

ED is complex.

So are its causes.

Unfortunately, there’s usually no instant fix for erection problems.

If it’s something you suffer with, a combination of treatments will probably be best. This might include medicinal treatment.

But ED can also be avoided.

After reading this booklet, you might feel like ED is associated with a lot of conditions. You’re right. It is.

So the best way to avoid ED is to protect your body and mind overall. To reduce the risk of serious health conditions.

In summary.

Eat well, but not in excess, don’t drink too much alcohol, don’t smoke, exercise regularly and practice ways to keep yourself motivated, optimistic, and happy.

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