Erectile Dysfunction – What It Is and Why It Happens

Before we begin, I’d like to issue a general disclaimer that the information in this article is of sensitive nature to many men who suffer from the condition in question. That being said, kindly view the information in this article from an educational standpoint, and have empathy for those who suffer from it. Let us begin.

Erectile Dysfunction is a cause of massive concern for many men today. Formerly known as Impotence, Erectile Dysfunction or ED is defined by health experts as the inability to initiate or maintain penile erection for the purpose of sexual intercourse, despite being sexually aroused.

Think of it like hydraulics. Typically, the penis has a specific capacity to pool blood within its tissues, making it erect. Ed develops when this system is compromised. Because of our social constructs around men and sexuality, you can see why this is a particularly problematic issue for men. Previously it was believed that only older men could develop ED, but studies have now shown that men as young as 20 years old can also suffer from ED. About half of all men with ED that I see as an MD in my clinic are below 35 years of age.

So why do men develop an inability to keep an erection? It’s a question that is still under study today. Various factors have been linked in the scientific literature that increases the risk of someone getting Erectile Dysfunction in their lifetimes. You may even be surprised by how common these risk factors are found in the general population. If you happen to have any of the risk factors we shall briefly discuss below, I would suggest a consultation with your doctor regarding this possibility.

Some of the most common risk factors for developing ED include but are not limited to:

Chronic Vascular Diseases

The most common causes of ED in older men are linked to them having one or more chronic diseases that are brought about by our lifestyles. Conditions like Diabetes, high blood pressure, Strokes, Heart disease and high cholesterol states like Atherosclerosis all contribute to weakening the vascular system responsible for producing an erection. While many of these conditions are long-lasting.  Management of these conditions by working with your doctor can go a long way in helping you keep that risk at its lowest possible value.

Psychological stress

This is not a very understandable and intuitive factor. You probably know that sexual arousal and all the events afterward are just as dependent on the mind as they are on the body itself. So, stress and performance anxiety can compromise the contribution from your mind. I see quite a few patients at my practice who, upon further inquiry, turn out to have psychologically induced ED. This is by far the most common cause of ED in young men. The good news is, this factor is very treatable by a carefully crafted course of counseling and therapy.  

Antidepressant use

Depression and other related disorders are becoming increasingly common in our societies. You probably know a few people who have or have had depression at least once in their lives. You may even know someone or have personal experience with antidepressant medication. One of the side effects of antidepressants is difficulty in sexual arousal and hence, erection. Fortunately, this effect is not permanent and is quick to return as soon as the antidepressants are discontinued. However, please do not discontinue your antidepressant medication suddenly or on your own. Please consult your doctor first.


Because of its close association with our sex lives, Erectile Dysfunction can become a very problematic condition for many men. Fortunately, a good collaboration with your doctor and a thorough assessment of your risk can go a long way to not only treat your ED but also helping you keep your chances of developing ED to a minimum in the future.      

Dr Ahmad Fayyaz
Dr. Ahmad Fayyaz Chaudhry earned his MBBS degree from Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad, in 2020. During graduation, he enrolled himself in the Medical and Surgical Wards of Allied and DHQ Hospital Faisalabad for all the necessary training required to pass the bachelor's exam Currently, he is posted as a House Physician in the Medical Unit 3 Allied Hospital Faisalabad, where he encounters all kinds of hepatic, cardiac, neurological, and dermatological diseases daily. Dr. Ahmad Fayyaz is registered with Pakistan Medical Council (PMC) Pakistan and owns a Degree in OET. He is a general reporter for this site.

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