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Impotence Causes

Impotence causes can be associated with illnesses.

Consumption of alcohol is one of several causes of impotence. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Consumption of alcohol is one of several causes of impotence.

Once considered a natural, unavoidable process of aging or an embarrassing psychological issue, impotence, or erectile dysfunction, has bred many myths. Now, impotence causes are known to include physical, emotional or psychological problems. Contrary to popular perception, impotence is a common problem that afflicts men of all ages, although it is more common in older men.

According to MedlinePlus, an online medical resource maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, all men experience episodes of impotence at least once in their lives. This article discusses impotence causes, as well as symptoms and treatment.

Impotence Defined

Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, is characterized by a man's inability to maintain an erection firm enough or long enough to perform sexual intercourse. It becomes a problem only if it persistently occurs more than 25 percent of the time and begins to be emotionally, psychologically and socially disruptive.

Erections are achieved through a complex process that involves coordination among the brain, nerves, hormones and blood vessels. Much can interfere with this process, making impotence a common problem for men of all ages.

Premature ejaculation is not a symptom of impotence, nor is infertility. Most men maintain a sex drive even if impotence is an issue.

Impotence Causes

There are many causes for impotence. Sometimes it is caused by an underlying condition, such as heart disease or a hormonal dysfunction. Other times, it is a side effect of a medication taken to treat an unrelated condition. The following are common causes of impotence:

Conditions and Illnesses:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Heart and thyroid conditions
  • High blood pressure
  • Reduced circulation
  • Hormonal issues (such as low testosterone)
  • Injuries (such as spinal cord injury)
  • Nerve damage (from prostate surgery, for example)
  • Neurological disorders (such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis) and depression


Certain medications and drugs:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Heart medications
  • Peptic ulcer medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Sleeping pills
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine


Psychological causes:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Unrealistic sexual expectation
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Poor or negative communication with partner


Psychological causes can reinforce a vicious cycle of doubt, frustration and failure.

Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, may be caused by serious, underlying health problems, so make sure to consult a doctor if symptoms persist.

Symptoms of Impotence

Impotence is defined as the inability to maintain an erection long enough or firm enough for sexual intercourse. Impotence becomes a problem if symptoms persist more than 25 percent of the time and affect a person's self-esteem or his ability to maintain healthy relationships.

Related symptoms of impotence may include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Urination changes

Seek immediate medical help if these symptoms occur.

Treating Impotence

There are many treatments available for impotence that range from medication to surgery that can help restore sexual function for the majority of men. Some medication (such as Viagra and Levitra) may be taken orally, while others (such as testosterone) may be injected. Devices such as vacuum pumps and prosthesis can also be used to treat impotence. The course of treatment a patient follows depends on the underlying cause and the risks involved.

In order to effectively treat impotence, it is imperative to consult a doctor about the risks, side effects and complications, especially if impotence is caused by an underlying health issue, such as an endocrine imbalance or a heart condition. Depending on the underlying cause, some treatment methods for impotence can have potentially fatal consequences.

To determine whether the problem is physical or psychological, a doctor can run tests to find out if normal nighttime erections are occurring. According to MedlinePlus, men typically have three to five erections per night, lasting up to 30 minutes each time.

If impotence issues are caused by medication taken for unrelated conditions, a doctor may adjust the dose or recommend a similar drug with different side effects. A patient should never change or discontinue medication without seeking doctor approval.

Likewise, consult a doctor if impotence issues began after an injury or following prostate surgery.

For many men, lifestyle changes may help restore sexual function. Some lifestyle tips include:

  • Decrease smoking and consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs.
  • Increase rest and relaxation.
  • Regular exercise and a healthy diet can aid and maintain good circulation.
  • Reduce sexual anxieties by using safe sex practices and communicating openly with partners.
  • Seek counseling if problems begin to worsen.

The best course of action for impotence is to consult a health care professional to rule out serious underlying health issues.

If an erection medication causes an erection that lasts more than four hours, seek emergency help, as the condition can cause permanent damage to the penis.

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