7 Surprising Facts About Erectile Dysfunction

  • businessman-leaning-on-handrail
    The Facts
    They may not talk about it, but most men experience difficulty in the bedroom now and again. Erectile dysfunction, often called ED, is actually a common medical condition. Experiencing ED can be upsetting. But the more you know, the better off you will be. Do some research, then talk with your doctor. Here are seven facts about the condition that you might not know.

  • Portrait of confident business colleagues
    Fact #1: You’re not alone.
    As many as 30 million men in the United States experience ED, with nearly one out of two men older than age 75 affected. For men who experience it regularly, ED can cause problems with self-esteem, performance anxiety, and depression. And these things make ED worse. It’s a circle that can lead to stress on a marriage or relationship. But you aren’t alone, so talk with your doctor and get your confidence back.

  • Doctor measuring blood pressure
    Fact #2: It’s probably not in your mind.
    It’s true that your mind is a big part of your sexuality. Stress, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems can cause ED. If you are having mental or emotional troubles, be sure your doctor knows. But most cases of ED are due to a physical cause. This can include diabetes, high blood pressure, nerve disease or damage, multiple sclerosis, hardening of the arteries, and heart disease. Certain medicines can also contribute to it.

  • About to kiss
    Fact #3: It’s probably not low testosterone.
    Testosterone may be the most important male hormone, but when it comes to ED, it is not often to blame. Low testosterone can affect the desire for sex, but not usually the state of the erection. Erections depend primarily on two things—nerve supply and blood flow. Once sensory or mental stimulation starts, nerves in the area control muscles that allow blood to flow into the penis. This causes an erection.

  • 3D DNA
    Fact #4: The solution could be in your genes.
    The future of ED treatment may be in your genes. Researchers are testing gene therapy as a potential long-term treatment approach for ED, and possibly a cure. Other researchers are exploring the use of stem cell therapy. If you’re interested in participating in a clinical trial for ED, talk with your doctor. Clinical trials can offer early access to new treatments and can help other men with ED by advancing research.

  • Composition with containers of dietary supplements and capsules
    Fact #5: Online ‘cures’ can be dangerous.
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigated dietary supplements sold online that claim to treat ED. They found that one-third of them contain potentially harmful and unlisted ingredients. This makes ordering these products risky to your health. If you’re interested in a supplement, talk with your doctor first. Then, purchase it through a local pharmacy that works with reputable manufacturers and suppliers.

  • Young doctor with senior patient
    Fact #6: It could signal something else is wrong.
    ED is often the first warning sign of more serious health problems, like heart disease and diabetes. That makes it especially important to see your doctor to find out what is causing your ED. If another medical condition is to blame, treating it can improve your overall health—and your sexual function.

  • Man with tooth brush
    Fact #7: There’s a possible link with your dental health.
    Several studies suggest that men with periodontal disease or chronic gum disease are more likely than those with healthy teeth and gums to have ED. In other words, gum disease may be a risk factor for ED. Inflammation is the likely link between the two. Research also suggests that dental health plays a role in preventing ED. So see your dentist regularly and practice good oral hygiene.

7 Surprising Facts About Erectile Dysfunction

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
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  2. Eltas A, et al. The effect of periodontal treatment in improving erectile dysfunction: a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Periodontol. 2013 Feb;40(2):148-54.
  3. Erectile Dysfunction. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/erectile-dysfunction/Pages/facts.aspx
  4. Hidden Risks of Erectile Dysfunction 'Treatments' Sold Online. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm048386.htm
  5. Oguz F, et al. Is there a relationship between chronic periodontitis and erectile dysfunction? J Sex Medi. 2013;10(3):838-843.
  6. Sexual problems. Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/mens-health/sexual-health-for-men/sexual-problems.html
  7. Shamloul R and Ghanem H. Erectile dysfunction. Lancet. 2013;381:153-165.
  8. Men’s Sexual Health May Be Linked to Periodontal Health. American Academy of Periodontology. https://www.perio.org/consumer/erectile_dysfunction
  9. Kim JH, et al. Mesenchymal stem cell-based gene therapy for erectile dysfunction. Int J Impot Res. 2016 May;28(3):81-7.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.