It is not uncommon for men to occasionally have problems getting or keeping an erection; however, if the problem persists, there may be an underlying cause.
Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is often a result of a disease or medical condition that affects the brain, the nerves, or blood flow to the penis. When blood vessels or nerves are damaged (as can happen with certain diseases or medical conditions), blood flow to the penis can become obstructed, making it difficult to obtain or maintain an erection. Below are some medical conditions known to cause symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
ED and Diabetes
Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is a common problem in men with diabetes, particularly those with poorly controlled blood sugar. Healthy blood vessels are essential to obtaining and maintaining an erection. Over time, diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves to the penis, which can result in erectile dysfunction.
ED and Neurological Diseases
Erectile dysfunction can also be common in men who have certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
ED and Parkinson’s Disease
There are several reasons why men with Parkinson’s disease may also experience impotence:
- Parkinson’s disease affects the brain and the spinal cord, which in turn affects the nerves that are responsible for an erection.
- Parkinson’s can affect blood flow to the penis, and poor blood flow can lead to erectile dysfunction.
- One of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is tremors or rigidity, which may make sexual intercourse painful.
- People with Parkinson’s disease often have low levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that’s responsible for physical movement and sensations of pleasure, among other things.
ED and Multiple Sclerosis
Erectile dysfunction in patients with multiple sclerosis can be caused by a number of factors:
- As with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis affects the brain and the spinal cord, which in turn affects the nerves that are responsible for an erection.
- Multiple sclerosis causes muscle spasms and fatigue, which can contribute to sexual dysfunction.
- Depression, which often accompanies a major diagnosis such as multiple sclerosis, can lead to decreased sexual arousal.
ED and Vascular Diseases and Conditions
Vascular conditions can affect blood flow to the penis, which can result in impotence.
ED and Heart Disease
Erectile dysfunction is sometimes an early sign of heart disease. Heart disease affects blood flow, and if blood can’t freely flow to the penis, you can’t get an erection. So if you have erectile dysfunction, you will also need to be tested for heart disease.
ED and Clogged Blood Vessels (Atherosclerosis)
Atherosclerosis is a buildup of plaque in the arteries, which narrows the arteries and slows down blood flow. Because the blood vessels to the penis are so small, they can easily become clogged, even in the early stages of atherosclerosis. When the arteries to the penis become clogged, blood can’t flow freely to the area, making it difficult to achieve an erection.
ED and High Cholesterol
When cholesterol builds up in your arteries, it can damage blood vessels and nerves, obstructing blood flow to the penis. High cholesterol may also decrease testosterone production, which can decrease your sex drive.
ED and High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure causes the arteries to narrow so blood can’t flow freely to the penis. It also keeps the muscles in the penis from relaxing the way they should, which further reduces blood flow.
For more information on erectile dysfunction associated with other diseases and medical conditions, contact Leroy Jones, MD, urology specialist of San Antonio.