Erectile Dysfunction 101: Your Guide to ED in 2023

Erectile dysfunction, also known as ED, occurs in 1-in-3 men, but other studies suggest that 52% of men will experience some form of erectile dysfunction throughout their lives. As men age, the risks of the condition rise.

While older men are at a higher risk of total ED, younger men are also impacted.

A little over 1-in-4 men under the age of 40 will suffer from erectile dysfunction. Learning what causes the condition and how to treat it is the key to restoring your sex life.

What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

ED is a man’s inability to get and/or maintain an erection long enough to have intercourse. There’s a difference between having trouble getting an erection once in a while and someone who has ED. True erectile dysfunction is a persistent problem.

And when you have one bad experience after another, it will lead to:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Lack of confidence

All three of these issues will compound your ED problems, making it more difficult to get and keep an erection.

On top of the two main symptoms of getting and maintaining an erection, many men will also experience a lack of sexual desire. The condition isn’t a cause for medical concern unless you suffer from diabetes, heart disease, or other medical conditions that can be linked to your dysfunction.

Correcting ED can be complicated because there are a lot of factors that may be causing your issues. Male sexual arousal has several moving parts that can be impacting your erections, including:

  • Blood vessels
  • Muscles
  • Nerves

Your brain, emotions, and hormones also play a role in proper erectile function. If you’re nervous and anxious because you’ve been experiencing ED, it will only make the issue further.

It’s estimated that 20% of sexual encounters end in a man having trouble with erections. If you fall within this range, there’s no cause for worry. You should only start getting truly concerned when you’re experiencing ED 50% of the time or more.

Rectifying the underlying causes may help you restore your sex drive and ability to maintain an erection to have sex.

What Are the Causes of Erectile Dysfunction?

A healthy, strong erection occurs when blood flows to the penis increases. The man becomes aroused, and blood flows into the penile chambers, which consist of a sponge-like material called the corpora cavernosa.

The blood fills these chambers, causing an erection.

In all cases of ED, an issue occurs in this process, making it more difficult to get and maintain an erection. A few factors can be the culprit, along with a wide range of medical issues.

What Lifestyle Choices Cause ED?

Your lifestyle choices may be the cause of your dysfunction, and some of the most common choices that result in ED are:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Smoking

If you can eliminate these lifestyle choices, you may be able to restore your penile function.

What Medical Issues Cause ED?

Medical or health issues can also cause dysfunction, and the list for these conditions is much longer than the lifestyle choices that may be causing your ED. The medical and/or health issues that may be linked to your erectile dysfunction are:

  • Anxiety
  • Blood-vessel issues
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Low testosterone
  • Medications
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stress
  • Obesity

Circulation issues can also impact the blood flow into the penile tissue. If you’ve suffered penile injuries, you may also have scar tissue inside of the penis that is blocking blood flow.

Or, you may be having relationship issues that are blocking your ability to get an erection.

Mental state can be huge when trying to combat erectile dysfunction. Men who have relationship issues may still be attracted to their partner or spouse, but the issues make it difficult to get an erection.

Working through these relationship issues can often correct these issues, but it’s important to approach them as soon as possible.

Certain medications may also be causing your issues. If you’re on a new medication and are just starting to have issues with ED, discuss the issue with your doctor. It may be as simple as switching medications to help restore your sexual health.

What Is the Main Cause of Erectile Dysfunction?

If there was “one,” single cause of ED, it would be age – something you can’t control. As a man ages, the risk of ED rises for a variety of reasons, from leading a sedentary lifestyle to diabetes and an array of other health issues.

A younger sufferer is unlikely to pinpoint the cause of erectile dysfunction on their own if they don’t have heart disease or diabetes.

What Risk Factors Increase Your Chances of ED?

Certain risk factors can increase the risk of you suffering from erectile dysfunction. If you can put a check next to any of the following points, you’re at a higher risk of ED:

  • You’re 40 years old or older.
  • You suffer from diabetes, which causes ED in two ways: reduces circulation and can also damage your nerves.
  • You’re obese. Almost 80% of people that have ED have a BMI of over 25.
  • You’re depressed. A lot of men that have ED suffer from depression, but it’s not known if the cause of the depression is actually the dysfunction or not.

Physical inactivity and low testosterone may also be contributing to your ED. You may be experiencing links to your dysfunction from multiple areas, such as being obese, diabetic, inactive, and suffering from alcohol abuse.

Since multiple factors can be contributing to your issues, you may have to take multiple approaches to restore your erection.

For example, you may need to enter a fitness routine to lose weight while also taking medication to control your diabetes and working towards sobriety.

Let’s take a look at the multiple treatment options for ED to better understand what needs to be done to restore your erectile function.

Treatments for ED

A physical exam and a thorough understanding of your medical history are often all that is needed to diagnose you with ED. There are certain causes of ED that may not be treatable right now, such as ongoing cancer treatment.

Stopping this treatment can result in cancer progressing, so it’s one of the rare occurrences when you may have to suffer through ED until you’re back to full health.

But aside from these rare instances, multiple treatment options are likely to help you restore some, if not all, of your penile function. A few of these treatments are:

Change in Lifestyle

If you don’t have a serious medical issue and your doctor believes that your lifestyle is the main cause of your ED, treatment for you may take on many forms:

  • Increase physical activity. Since a BMI of over 25 increases the risk of ED, staying physically active should be a go-to treatment option. One study from 2018 found that simply adding in 160 minutes of aerobic activity per week was able to decrease ED symptoms in just six months.
  • Change in diet. Reducing foods that contribute to high cholesterol and eating healthier foods can also help.
  • Breaking bad habits. Stopping alcohol consumption, drug abuse or smoking can also help reduce symptoms.

Lifestyle changes are some of the best, most natural methods to helping curb your symptoms. You can also seek out other treatments for your ED.


Your doctor may recommend testosterone therapy if you have low testosterone. Older men may benefit from this therapy, and it can also help you build muscle mass. If you want immediate relief, the most common method of treatment is to take medications that are designed to improve blood flow to your penis, including:

  • Cialis
  • Levitra
  • Viagra
  • Many others

If medications are causing your erectile dysfunction, speak to your doctor. Changing medications may be a fast, easy way to get back to your old self in the bedroom.


If depression, stress, or a psychological issue is causing your ED, therapy may be the answer. A therapist can help you overcome these issues. Relationship therapy, or discussing relationship problems with your partner, may also help alleviate your symptoms.


Penis pumps may be an option for someone with mild erectile function. These devices work by being placed over the penis and utilizing pressure to force an erection. You’ll often find that medication is more effective for people with more advanced ED than a penis pump.

What if none of these treatment options help rectify your ED?

Surgery may be the only other option.

Doctors can insert an inflatable device in the penis to force an erection when pumped up. The prosthesis is really a last resort and is only recommended if all of the other options listed above have not worked for you.

Erectile dysfunction can be depressing and stressful, but with the right treatment or changes to your lifestyle, you may be able to restore full erectile function.

While some treatment options can be sought on your own, others will require the help of a doctor or therapist.

The right treatment will help alleviate the symptoms of ED, and hopefully, bring back your strong, lasting erections.