Erectile dysfunction is more common than most people would think. Erectile dysfunction affects as many as 30 million men making it the most common sexual problem that men report to their doctor.

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, commonly referred to as ED, is a condition in which a man is unable to get or keep an erection firm enough for satisfactory sexual intercourse. 

The condition can be short-term or long-term and may lead to complications such as: 

  • An unfulfilled sex life
  • A loss of intimacy with your partner resulting in a strained relationship
  • Depression, anxiety, and/or low self-esteem
  • Difficulty or inability to get a partner pregnant

While depression, anxiety and low self-esteem may result from erectile dysfunction, they can also contribute to it. 

Risk Factors of Erectile Dysfunction

There are certain risk factors that can cause or contribute to ED. Men are more likely to develop ED if they are: 

  • Over the age of 50
  • Have certain diseases or conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or high cholesterol
  • Take certain medications
  • Have certain psychological or emotional issues, such as depression or anxiety
  • Have certain health-related factors or behaviors, such as being overweight or obese, smoking, using drugs or drinking too much alcohol or lack of exercise

Although ED is more common in older men, the condition is not considered a normal part of aging.

Causes of ED

There are several possible causes of erectile dysfunction. These include: 

  • Insufficient blood flow to the penis which may be caused by hardened arteries, heart disease, diabetes and/or smoking.
  • Penis cannot trap blood during an erection
  • Nerve signals from the brain or spinal cord do not reach the penis; This may be caused by certain diseases, injury or surgery in the pelvic area.
  • Diabetes, which can cause small blood vessel disease or nerve damage to the penis.
  • Cancer treatments such as radiation or surgery in the lower abdomen or near the pelvis. Treatment for prostate, colon-rectal or bladder cancer can leave men with erectile dysfunction.
  • Certain medications used to treat other health problems


Men are considered to have erectile dysfunction when they: 

  • Can get an erection sometimes, but not every time they want to have sex
  • Can get an erection, but it does not last long enough for fulfilling or satisfactory sex
  • Are unable to get an erection at any time

Diagnosis & Treatment

To diagnose erectile dysfunction, health care professionals such as primary care providers and urologists will ask a series of questions about your vascular health as well as your erection problem.

It’s important that you answer honestly about your lifestyle habits and behaviors including smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use (both prescription and recreational).

Your provider will also give you a physical exam, collect a urine sample and may order blood tests. 

There are several different ways that erectile dysfunction can be treated. For some men, making a few healthy lifestyle changes may solve the problem. Your urologist will help determine the most effective course of treatment for your condition. 

Standard treatment options for ED include:

  • Oral medications
  • Vacuum erection devices 
  • Medications that can be inserted or injected into the penis
  • Penile implants

For some men with ED, specialized testing may be needed to guide treatment or re-assess after a failed treatment. These tests may include additional blood work to check blood sugar, testosterone and other male hormones; ultrasonography to check blood flow; an injection to stimulant an erection; pelvic x-rays, MRI or CT scanning; or nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT). 

Schedule an Appointment

At Alliance Urology Specialists, our goal is to provide the highest level of specialized urology care. Our board-certified urologists with advanced training offer medical and surgical treatment options for men and their partners affected by erectile dysfunction. To schedule an appointment, call Alliance Urology Specialists in Greensboro at (336) 274-1114.