ERECTIONS ∙ 2 minutes read

The 4 different types of erectile dysfunction

By Duncan Fisher

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when a man has persistent trouble getting hard enough, long enough, for sex. While it is a very common issue, it can also be a symptom of a lot of different underlying issues, including psychological problems such as anxiety.

There are a number of different risk factors, like age, lifestyle, medications and medical conditions which make ED more likely to occur. Broadly speaking, there are four general reasons men can develop ED.

Blood flow

One of the most common causes of ED is an underlying problem with reduced blood flow, arterial insufficiency or arterial blockage. Poor arterial flow can stem from things like diabetes, high lipid (cholesterol) levels in the blood, or cigarette smoking.

Hormonal imbalances

Sometimes hormone imbalance is to blame for ED. Low levels of testosterone are associated with erectile dysfunction, for example, though it’s not yet known exactly why. Abnormal thyroid hormone levels can cause ED too.  

Nerve signalling

Because the signals which lead erection to occur are mediated by the nerves, sometimes ED can arise from a problem with nerve signalling to the penis. This can be from things like injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or diabetes (which can affect nerve health as well as blood vessel health, as mentioned above).

Psychological causes

It’s well established that stress, depression and anxiety can interfere with men’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection. Even antidepressant medications themselves can cause ED.

There is strong evidence showing that you’re more likely to have ED if you have symptoms of depression, and that more severe depression is associated with more severe ED. It can work the other way around too - men who report having ED are at higher risk of developing depression than men who don’t.

The bottom line

The cause of someone's erectile dysfunction might be simple, or it might be complicated. Broadly speaking, though, it is often caused by four main categories: blood flow, hormonal imbalances, nerve signalling, and psychological causes.

The surest way to get to the bottom of what might be causing your ED is with an Erectile Dysfunction Test Kit: a simple, at-home blood test that can identify if you have any underlying health conditions that could be contributing to your ED.

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