/ Erectile Dysfunction
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Sexual stimulation is a complex process that involves the brain, heart, hormones, nerves, muscles, and emotions. Because of the many working parts, there are numerous possible causes of erectile dysfunction such as problems with the cardiovascular system, metabolism and diet, drug use, mental health, and more.

Read on to learn more about the causes of ED so you can get proper treatment.

Cardiovascular System

When erections occur, blood vessels dilate and fill with blood. Any problem with the cardiovascular system could have a negative effect on erectile function. Such problems might include:

  • Heart disease
  • Atherosclerosis, i.e. clogged blood vessels
  • Hypertension i.e. abnormally high blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome, a group of simultaneous conditions relating to blood pressure, insulin, body fat, and cholesterol.

Central Nervous System

Blood vessels in the penis won't dilate unless they receive the right signals from the brain. These signals are generated when the brain responds to physical and mental stimulation such as touch, love, and arousal. Problems that can effect the mind-body connection include:

  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress

Sleep Disorders

Testosterone is a critical hormone in the function of men's sex organs. Most testosterone is produced during sleep, so anything that disrupts sleep might also disrupt sexual function. Common sleep disorders include:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Narcolepsy

Drug Use and Abuse

Tobacco and marijuana use have a huge effect on the cardiovascular system, lungs and brain. They increase heart rate, blood pressure, and carbon monoxide levels in the blood. Smoking leads to coronary heart disease atherosclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (which can affect sleep), and lung cancer.

Alcohol also has an extreme effect on the brain and heart. Alcohol causes high blood pressure and interferes with the brain's ability to communicate with the body.

Prescription medications can cause erectile dysfunction. Types of prescription medications that can cause erectile dysfunction include:

  • diuretics
  • antidepressants
  • antihistamines
  • anti-inflammatory drugs
  • medications for Parkinson's disease
  • muscle relaxants
  • medications for prostate cancer
  • chemotherapy drugs.

Physical Trauma and Conditions

Trauma to the spinal cord or pelvic area via surgery or other injury can contribute to erectile dysfunction.

Other physical conditions that can cause erectile dysfunction include:

  • Obesity
  • Peyronie's disease
  • Enlarged prostates

Relationship Between Causes

Many causes of erectile dysfunction relate to each other. For example, tobacco use is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction, but tobacco use can also lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and high blood pressure; all of which are causes of erectile dysfunction.

Obesity is also a risk factor for many causes of erectile dysfunction including:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • blood pressure
  • depression
  • high cholesterol
  • metabolic syndrome
  • sleep apnea
  • low testosterone
  • potentially low self-esteem.

Quitting tobacco, exercising, and good dietary habits are some of the best ways to improve erectile function.


ED can also be a natural result of aging. As men get older their libido and ability to perform sexually can decrease. For some men this is ok, for other men who wish to continue sexual activity there are many ED medications available.

Book an appointment today to chat with a doctor online about what may be causing your ED and which treatment methods you can try.

Read More About ED Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and Medications

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Ryan Quinn

Ryan Quinn

Ryan has a background in geochemical research and enjoys writing on technical subjects like health and science. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT and can be found recreating in the local mountains.

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