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What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is what happens when you have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. While you might understandably find it embarrassing to talk about, it can affect any man and is usually nothing to worry about.

However, regular bouts of erectile dysfunction can be a sign of an underlying physical or mental health condition. If it’s been occurring regularly for more than two months, you need to see a doctor.

Our online doctors understand that erectile dysfunction is a sensitive subject. You can have a secure, private discussion with an experienced doctor on your phone, tablet or computer at a time and place that suits you. You can be as discreet as you like, and everything you say will be completely confidential.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by either physical or psychological factors. Your age is also a factor, as studies have shown that erectile dysfunction is more likely in men over 40.

Here are some of the most common reasons for erectile dysfunction.

Physical conditions

In broad terms, if you are in good physical shape, it makes erectile dysfunction less likely, regardless of how old you are. However, there are two physical reasons why you might find it hard to get or maintain an erection.

Firstly, the blood flow to your penis might be restricted for some reason.

Secondly, when you get an erection, your blood vessels relax to allow blood to flow to the penis, then narrow again to prevent blood from flowing straight back out again.

Some physical problems can weaken your blood vessels so that they’re unable to control blood flow.

Your erectile dysfunction could be a symptom of:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Regularly exceeding 14 units of alcohol per week
  • Smoking
  • Drug abuse
  • An imbalance in your hormones
  • A side effect of a medication you are taking

Psychological conditions

Sometimes, your psychological state can lead to erectile dysfunction. In particular, the following mental health conditions could be responsible.

In some cases, erectile dysfunction can be caused by a combination of physical and psychological factors.

Erectile dysfunction diagnosis

During your consultation, our doctors will discuss what could be causing your erectile dysfunction. They might ask you directly about some of the possible causes mentioned above.

Everything that you discuss will stay completely confidential.

In some cases, it may be necessary to carry out further tests. For example, if the doctor feels a heart problem could be behind your erectile dysfunction, they might want to do a blood test.

They can arrange for a test kit to be sent to your home. This comes with full, clear instructions that will help you collect a blood sample quickly and painlessly in the comfort of your own home.

All you need to do is send the sample back to our laboratory, where our technicians will have your results ready in just a few days.

Depending on the tests needed, or your personal preference, they can arrange for you to visit a clinic to get the sample taken.

Erectile dysfunction treatment

As well as trying to help you get and maintain an erection, it’s important that any treatment addresses the underlying cause of your problem.

A physical problem will need an entirely different approach to a psychological one. Our expert GPs will work out what is best for you. The treatment options include:

Medication

If a physical problem such as high blood pressure is behind your erectile dysfunction, taking medication to lower it could help. Treating the physical illness may help improve your erectile function.

If there’s no obvious cause, our doctors can prescribe medicine that is designed to stimulate blood flow to the penis. Viagra is the most famous example of this, but other options are a possibility, including a vacuum pump.

You should speak to the doctor about what would be the most effective medication for you.

Talking therapy

If the doctor believes your erectile dysfunction is caused by an issue with your mental health, they may recommend you undergo a talking therapy with a mental health expert.

Our doctors can provide a referral that will make sure you can start your treatment as quickly as possible.

The most common form of talking therapy in these situations is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). These sessions will help you work out why erectile dysfunction is happening and learn new ways to respond to certain thoughts and situations.

Sometimes the issue can be one of confidence and a short course of medication to help you get your confidence back can be all it takes.

Lifestyle changes

In some cases, you might simply need help making a few lifestyle changes. Drinking too much, being overweight or smoking are all reversible. Our doctors will provide the support you need to make these changes.