Erectile dysfunction is the term given to an array of erectile problems. The most common erectile problem men face is the inability to sustain or achieve an erection long enough to complete sexual intercourse. This is usually known as impotence. Other forms of erectile dysfunction include problems with orgasm and/or ejaculation.
As you will see from the image below, a penis reaches an erect state when the corpus cavernosum fills with blood. If this process is disrupted in any way, it will not be possible to achieve an erection sufficient for complete intercourse.
Whatever the cause of this disruption, the problem will come under the umbrella of "erectile dysfunction". Causes of any form of erectile dysfunction can be either psychological or physiological. Erectile problems usually relate to the process of gaining and maintaining an erection during sexual arousal; problems relating to libido are usually considered to be a separate issue and are as such not a form of erectile dysfunction.
Types of erectile dysfunction
Impotence - this is the most common form of the condition. It is diagnosed when a man is unable to either gain or maintain an erection. Men over the age of 40 are more susceptible to developing impotence, but it can affect men of all ages.
Premature ejaculation- this most commonly occurs in younger men, but again can affect men of all ages. It occurs when a man is unable to control his orgasm and ejaculates much earlier than desired during sexual activity.
Delayed ejaculation - this occurs when a man is unable to orgasm or has a continuing problem achieving orgasm.
Risk factors for erectile dysfunction
There are a number of risk factors that have been identified as contributors to the problem of erectile dysfunction.
Smoking - tobacco smoking is known to restrict the flow of blood to the arteries and veins. This can contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction, as the process of erection depends on adequate blood flow.
Certain medical conditions - cardiovascular problems or chronic conditions like diabetes can also be risk factors. Psychological conditions like depression and stress can also have an impact.
Taking certain medications - these include antihistamines, antidepressants and medications that are intended to treat high blood pressure or prostate cancer.
Types of medical treatment - certain types of surgery, such as prostate surgery, can have an impact on sexual function. Radiation treatment for cancer can also affect this.
Alcohol and drug consumption - especially in excessive amounts.
Cycling - cycling for a prolonged period of time can affect the flow of blood in the penis, which may have a temporary effect on sexual function.