What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common male sexual disorder. It is the inability to get or keep an erection that allows for satisfying sexual activity. It can happen occasionally or regularly, with or without any clear reason. Some men with ED are not able to get an erection at all.

ED is not a life-threatening disorder, but it can have a negative impact on your quality of life and that of your partner.

How common is ED?

ED is a common condition in men of all ages and ethnicities. The risk of having ED increases with age.

Treatment of erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition. Although it is not life-threatening, it can negatively affect your quality of life. Because it can be related to other conditions, such as heart disease, it is important that you get the right treatment. There are various treatment options for ED, discuss with your doctor which option is best for your individual situation.

This section offers general information about treatment options and situations can vary in different countries.

Education and couple assessment

Phospodiesterase 5 inhibitors

Topical therapies

Shockwave therapy for erectile dysfunction

Intracavernous injections

Vacuum erection device

Penile implants

Causes of erectile dysfunction

Risk factors for ED and cardiovascular disease (CVD) are similar. The most cases of ED result from a vascular disturbance of the endothelium. Risk factors are such as:




Low levels of testosterone

Neurologic diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury)

Nerve damage to the penis or the pelvic area


Pelvic surgery

Radiation therapy to the pelvic area


Cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) and cardiovascular disease share common risk factors, like obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and lack of exercise. ED can be an early sign of heart disease because problems with blood flow affect erectile function. This is why men who experience ED should go to the doctor to get checked for heart disease.

Psychological risk factors for erectile dysfunction

Several psychological conditions have been associated with ED. These include:



Feelings of self-inadequacy

Low self-esteem

Inability to describe emotions