What is Impotence?

An erection is the end result of a complex chain of events. The brain sends signals to the genitals, blood vessels dilate and the penis becomes engorged. Meanwhile, the veins that normally drain away blood get blocked. When a man cannot get or keep an erection, the problem is called impotence or erectile dysfunction (ED).


What causes impotence?

Common causes of impotence include blocked arteries, diabetes and nerve problems. Depression, anxiety and alcoholism can also be factors–in fact, roughly 30 per cent of ED cases have psychological causes. Some medicines are also to blame, especially those used for high blood pressure and depression.

Knowing whether your erectile dysfunction is a result of a mind or body issue will help you to work out how to treat it. Here are 2 ways to start finding out:

  • It's probably physical if the problem came on gradually and you have other problems in your genital area, such as difficulty urinating or numbness in your penis.
  • The problem is probably psychological if you still have erections sometimes–for example, when you wake up in the morning–even if they don't happen on demand. You can test whether you have erections while you’re sleeping. Before going to sleep, take a single-ply tissue, cut a strip and wrap it relatively tightly around your penis. Tape the end. If in the morning the tissue is torn, the chances are you had a nocturnal erection.

Recurrent erection problems

If your inability to have an erection lasts for more than 2 months or recurs frequently, talk to your doctor. You might be a candidate for Viagra (or similar medication) and your doctor can outline the benefits and possible side effects. Also, by reviewing the medications that you take, your doctor might be able to identify one that contributes to erectile dysfunction. And a physical examination might indicate that the erection problem is a sign of another condition, such as diabetes or a circulatory disorder.

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