What Causes Impotence?

Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, can be the result of many potential conditions or medicinal complications.

Impotence is generally a lay term, as opposed to a medical one, and is used to describe any state which prevents a man from achieving sexual intercourse. Erectile dysfunction is the most commonly used term used to clinically describe the condition of an inability to achieve or maintain an erection. This distinguishes erectile dysfunction from an inability to achieve orgasm, among other things, which is almost always the result of psychological factors or a lack of nervous sensation to the penis.

The factors that can cause erectile dysfunction are wide-ranging, from the medical to the psychological, but most causes of serious or complete impotence are the direct result of damage to the tissues of the penis by disease or other medical conditions. Diabetes is a leading cause of erectile dysfunction, in part because it impairs significantly the proper circulation of the body. The penis requires healthy circulation in order to achieve and maintain erection, as it is an influx of blood to the corpora cavernosa that produces the rigidity of an erect penis, and conditions such as diabetes, chronic alcohol abuse, and vascular disease may seriously inhibit the ability of a man to achieve an erection. A deficiency of testosterone may also limit sexual function, including erectile capacity.

Nerve damage to the penis, such as that caused by surgical intrusion or physical injury may cause erectile dysfunction is a potential cause of erectile dysfunction, as such damage can either interrupt the muscular pathways that allow the penis to become erect or because it may hinder the sensitivity of the penis.


Many medications may also hinder sexual potency and erectile functionality, including medicines used to regulate high blood pressure. Antidepressants and other drugs also frequently hinder libido, sometimes making it difficult to achieve erection.

Medicines have also been approved to help improve erectile dysfunction, such as the popularized drug Viagra. Most of these medicines work by increasing blood flow to the genitals, allowing erection to be achieved more easily due to better access to circulation and because more blood in the penis can help improve sensitivity.

Psychological factors are believed to account for as many as one fifth of all cases of erectile dysfunction, and these are generally best treated by a psychological professional. Depression, anxiety, and other factors can weigh heavily upon sexual performance, and the fear or emotional trauma associated with sexual failure can only complicate the effects of these debilitations. Treatment for psychologically rooted sexual or erectile dysfunction may also take a clinical route, with the prescription of drugs meant to alleviate erectile dysfunction, but treating the root cause of the problem is typically considered more effective than the treatment of its symptoms. Not all drugs meant to treat erectile dysfunction are safe for everyone, and many promote long-lasting or painful erections in some individuals, and may prove unsuitable.

Consult a physician if you find you are experiencing severe erectile dysfunction, as it may be indicative of some other problem. If you are taking medication that you believe may be causing the dysfunction, consult your physician about possible alternative therapies for your condition.

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