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Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

According to research published in the October 2000 issue of the “Canadian Medical Association Journal,” more than 100 million men worldwide experience some form of erectile dysfunction over the course of a lifetime. Although the symptoms are similar in different cases–difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection and decreased sexual desire–erectile dysfunction is caused by a wide variety of physiological, pharmaceutical and psychological factors.

Physiological Causes

The majority of erectile dysfunction problems occurs as a direct result of an underlying medical condition. The most common body systems indicated when impotence occurs are the circulatory, nervous and endocrine systems, since blood vessel health, proper nerve and muscle function and proper male hormonal levels are all required for normal sexual performance. Medical problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart disease and obesity, as well as a number of neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis all frequently cause erectile dysfunction.

Pharmaceutical Causes

The use–and abuse–of certain medications and drugs can also directly cause erectile dysfunction. These include medications prescribed for medical problems such as high blood pressure (antihypertensives like Vasotec or Dyazide), allergic reactions (antihistamines like Benadryl or Dramamine) and cancer (chemotherapy drugs and prostate cancer medications like Lupron). A wide variety of antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs–for instance, Prozac, Valium and Zoloft–also commonly cause erectile dysfunction. Illegal drugs, such as cocaine or marijuana, as well as excessive alcohol or tobacco use can also play a role in impotence.

Psychological Causes

Although erectile dysfunction has a physiological result–impotence–many of the causes are rooted in stress or mental disorders. This is because the brain plays a pivotal role in triggering and maintaining sexual arousal. Disruptions in the normal chemistry of the brain–disruptions that result in problems, such as depression, severe anxiety or schizophrenia–can disrupt the normal sexual response. In addition, stress, fatigue and personal problems can also exacerbate problems with erectile dysfunction.

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