table of contents
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
If you’ve ever had difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, you’ve probably wondered if this is a sign of erectile dysfunction (ED).
First, it’s important to know that if you have one bad day (or night), that doesn’t mean you have ED. But it may be worth keeping an eye out for some of the most common ED symptoms, including having a hard time getting or staying aroused, so you can keep track of just how often you’re experiencing difficulties in the bedroom.
Let’s learn more about ED and the various signs of erectile dysfunction.
Get $15 off your first month of ED treatment
If prescribed, get ED treatment delivered discreetly directly to your door.
Common ED symptoms
Like everything else in your body, erections change as you age. Maybe your erections aren’t as strong or as frequent as they used to be. Or you might notice that your erections are softer or don’t last as long. Erectile dysfunction symptoms vary depending on your health, age, sexual activity, lifestyle, and habits, so you may be wondering how to tell if these changes are related to ED. The three most common erectile dysfunction symptoms are (Sooriyamoorthy, 2021):
- Difficulty getting an erection
- Softer erections
- Erections that don’t last long enough for satisfying sex
Some experts suggest that you should experience at least one of these symptoms for six months or longer before a healthcare provider diagnoses you with ED (Sooriyamoorthy, 2021).
Symptoms can also vary depending on the underlying cause of your ED. If psychological factors like stress cause it, your symptoms may start suddenly. If it’s caused by an underlying physical condition that affects penile blood flow like heart disease or diabetes, the symptoms usually come on more gradually (Yafi, 2016).
Most people who experience ED have an underlying physical condition. But some men, especially those who are younger, may experience erectile dysfunction due to psychological causes like stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, or depression (Sooriyamoorthy, 2021).
What is ED, and what is it not?
It’s normal to have times when sex isn’t the most important thing on your mind. Stress, financial worries, disruptions to your routine, illness, or relationship problems can decrease desire and affect erectile function.
But ED is more than just not being in the mood or not having an erection. Men can get an erection and still suffer from erectile dysfunction. ED is more about the inability to get and maintain an erection that’s strong enough to have a satisfactory sex life. Satisfaction is the key word in that definition (Sooriyamoorthy, 2021).
And it encompasses a lot. Erectile dysfunction is complex, and while the symptom list above is pretty short, your ED may include additional symptoms.
Erectile dysfunction (ED): causes, symptoms, and treatment
Causes of erectile dysfunction
When you or your partner notice a change in your erections, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider to discover the underlying cause. This is because erectile dysfunction is sometimes an early warning sign of serious health conditions, like heart disease (Yafi, 2016).
Many medical conditions are risk factors for ED, including:
- Cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure
- Low testosterone levels
- High cholesterol
- Prostate cancer (including treatments like chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy)
- Peyronie’s disease (a buildup of scar tissue that causes the penis to become curved and painful)
- Spinal cord injury
ED may even be a side effect of medications you’re taking, like opiates, antidepressants, or blood pressure medication. Don’t assume that it’ll just pass, especially if your ED symptoms get worse over time (Yafi, 2016).
Erectile dysfunction treatment
If you experience ED, there are many possible treatments to relieve your symptoms. Oral medications called phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5i) are highly effective treatment options for restoring sexual function and decreasing the frequency of ED symptoms. After taking them, up to 65% of men report satisfactory sexual intercourse (McMahon, 2019). Several are available, including sildenafil (brand name Viagra; see Important Safety Information), tadalafil (brand name Cialis; see Important Safety Information), and vardenafil (brand name Levitra).
Erectile dysfunction pills and medications: Viagra, Cialis, and more
Medications may not be suitable for everyone. But there are non-drug options for ED too. You can use devices such as penis pumps before sexual activity to help you get an erection. Surgical procedures such as penile implants offer another option.
Aside from medications or devices, treating any underlying physical causes and making specific lifestyle changes can help you ward off the symptoms of ED. Engaging in regular exercise, stopping smoking and drug use, limiting your alcohol intake, lowering your stress levels, and taking care of your mental health (Maiorino, 2015).
If you’ve experienced signs of erectile dysfunction, reach out to a healthcare provider who can work with you to develop a treatment plan that suits your needs.
- Maiorino, M., Bellastella, G., & Esposito, K. (2015). Lifestyle modifications and erectile dysfunction: what can be expected? Asian Journal of Andrology, 17(1), 5–10. doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.137687. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25248655/
- McMahon, C. (2019). Current diagnosis and management of erectile dysfunction. The Medical journal of Australia, 210(10), 469–476. doi: 10.5694/mja2.50167. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31099420/
- Sooriyamoorthy, T., & Leslie, S. (2021). Erectile dysfunction. [Updated Aug. 12, 2021]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32965924/
- Yafi, F., Jenkins, L., Albersen, M., Corona, G., Isidori, A., Goldfarb, S., et al. (2016). Erectile dysfunction. Nature Reviews. Disease Primers, 2, 16003. doi: 10.1038/nrdp.2016.3. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27188339/