What is erectile dysfunction?

Written by: Mr Aza Mohammed
Published: | Updated: 29/05/2023
Edited by: Lisa Heffernan

Erectile dysfunction is when a man is unable to attain or sustain an erection that is sufficient for satisfactory penetrative sexual intercourse. This can greatly impair a man’s quality of life.


Leading consultant urologist, Mr Aza Mohammed, is here to walk us through erectile dysfunction and how it can be treated.



Can erectile dysfunction happen at any age?


Depending on the cause of erectile dysfunction, it can present itself at any age. However, it is not very common before the age of 40.


What causes erectile dysfunction?


An erection requires an intact blood supply and nerves travelling through the tissues of the penis. A man’s emotions and state of mind also have a role to play. Anxiety and stress can impede a successful erection.


Therefore, the causes of erectile dysfunction can be divided into psychogenic and organic causes (vascular or neurogenic causes):


Other causes of erectile dysfunction can include drugs such as antihypertensive medicines, antidepressants and recreational drugs including alcohol. Anatomical penile disorders such as very tight foreskin, Peyronie’s disease and priapism can also cause erectile dysfunction.


Can the stress of erectile dysfunction make it worse?


For an erection to happen, there is a cascade of chemical substances that are produced in the brain, and locally, in the tissues of the penis that result in the erection. Stress can result in the alteration of this process and can disrupt the production of these signals. Furthermore, stress can affect the man’s ability to relax and it increases the production of certain chemicals in the body, such as adrenaline, which can inhibit the process of an erection.


If erectile dysfunction is caused by certain medications, can it be reversed when the patient stops taking them?


There are a number of medications that can cause erectile dysfunction. The main ones include anti-hypertensive (beta-blockers and thiazides) medication, antidepressants and recreational drugs (such as alcohol, marijuana and cocaine). It is essential that a full review of medications is conducted by the doctor to exclude any potential risk factor.


How can erectile dysfunction be treated?


Erectile dysfunction is treated in a stepwise fashion. The most important step is to eliminate any risk factors and to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In instances where psychogenic erectile dysfunction is suspected, referral for sexual counselling is recommended.


The three steps in managing erectile dysfunction are as follows:


Step one: medicines (phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors). This is a class of drugs including Viagra that results in relaxation of the tissues in the penis and will result in an erection. It is important to note that these medicines augment rather than create erections, and sexual stimulation is an essential part of using these medicines. These medicines should not be used in men with some heart conditions and it is always advised that you consult your doctor prior to their use.


Step two: penile injection or pump. This is used when medication fails. There can be associated risks and some side effects such as bleeding. The initial training on how to administer this treatment should only be performed by a qualified clinician.


Step three: insertion of a penile prosthesis. This is considered to be the last option in refractory cases. It is a major operation and can only be performed in specialised centres.



If you’d like more information regarding erectile dysfunction, don't hesitate to book a consultation with Mr Aza Mohammed via his Top Doctors profile today.

By Mr Aza Mohammed

Mr Aza Mohammed is a leading consultant urological surgeon, with over 20 years’ experience in the field of urology and men’s health.  Mr Mohammed is specialised in the management of complex kidney stones and minimally invasive treatment of prostate symptoms including UroLift and TURP. He also has vast experience in the management of urological cancers, management of erectile dysfunction and penile curvature (Peyronie’s disease), management of female urinary incontinence, as well as management of general urological conditions.

Mr Mohammed has undergone extensive training in both the UK and abroad, having worked in major university hospitals in the East Midlands and the West of Scotland, before undertaking  Uro-oncology research at the University of Toronto, Canada. He is both UK and European Board of Urology certified and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Since 2016, Mr Mohammed has been a consultant urological surgeon at Luton and Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Mr Mohammed has published more than 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals and has presented in both national and international meetings and conferences. He has been involved in a number of research projects throughout his career on various urological conditions, and is currently the principal investigator and supervisor of PhD research into the management of men with erectile dysfunction.

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