Most men will experience problems getting or keeping an erection at some point during adulthood, but this is not always caused by a medical problem. However, some men do develop a medical condition called erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition that occurs when the penis does not receive enough blood to produce an erection that is capable of having sexual intercourse. For men with ED, this happens repeatedly and affects a man's ability to sustain an active sex life.
While erectile problems are widely thought to be an older man's issue, ED can affect younger men as well. It can be both frustrating and embarrassing for a man to admit to having ED. Few young men, especially those under the age of 40, want to acknowledge that they may have it.
The causes of ED widely vary and can be caused by psychological, neurological, or lifestyle issues. ER can also be the result of side effects of particular medications.
All men who experience symptoms of ED should talk to their doctor to identify the probable cause and to determine the best course of action in terms of treatment.
Some of the causes for ED in young men include:
- performance anxiety when the man is too nervous to sustain an erection
- depression, schizophrenia, and other psychological disorders
- penile abnormalities, such as foreskin problems or curvature
- spinal cord injuries
- microvascular disease from diabetes
- nerve injuries
- hypogonadism, a condition where the body does not produce enough sexual hormones
- certain medications including some antidepressants
- multiple sclerosis
Additionally, some young men might experience ED as result of factors that they have more control over.
For example, young men can suffer from ED due to:
If ED is caused by any of these lifestyle factors, it may be possible for men to reduce or eliminate the symptoms through changes to their lifestyle and diet.
However, even if a man thinks he knows the reason for his ED, he should see a doctor for a formal diagnosis and treatment. A doctor can also rule out any potentially harmful conditions that may cause ED.
There are three main symptoms of ED, which are relatively easy to identify. These symptoms are:
- inability to get an erection
- inability to maintain an erection long enough to have sexual intercourse
- trouble having an erection that is firm enough for sexual intercourse
These symptoms may lead to a lack of sexual desire or a loss of interest in sex.
Physical complications of ED are generally mild. Men who experience ED do not typically experience any long-term health problems. However, ED may be a symptom of a more serious problem, such as heart disease.
The most common complications include:
- an unsatisfactory sex life
- inability to get a partner pregnant
While the physical complications may be mild, the emotional effects on a young man's quality of life may be more severe. Whether a man experiences all the potential complications or not depends largely on the individual and his own life experiences.
Additional lifestyle complications that some men might experience include:
- stress or anxiety around sexual performance
- embarrassment or low self-esteem due to inability to perform
- relationship problems that possibly stem from stress or embarrassment
Treatment for ED varies from person to person. Some men may find that improving their overall health may be enough to help the ED. Other people may require more treatment, such as relationship counseling, before they see any improvements.
If lifestyle and relationship improvements are not sufficient to improve ED, doctors may recommend medications. There are also some natural treatments available that may be considered.
When treating ED, a doctor or medical professional may suggest the following:
- Lifestyle changes: One of the first things a young man can do to potentially improve or eliminate ED is make positive choices that will also have an impact on the rest of his life. Some changes a man can consider include increasing exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet, quitting smoking, and drinking alcohol only in moderation. Where a man has relationship problems, seeking counseling may also be helpful.
- Natural treatments: Although natural remedies are increasingly available for sale over the counter, there is little scientific evidence to support their claims of improving ED. These remedies may produce adverse side effects or react negatively with other medications a man is taking. Before trying any over-the-counter treatments, it is essential to consult a doctor.
- Medication: A doctor may prescribe a medication that stimulates blood flow to the penis, helping a man achieve an erection. There are many drugs available to choose from and each has its own set of side effects. Speaking to a doctor about the types of medication available is strongly recommended.
- Changes to current medications: If a doctor determines that ED is caused as a result of a man taking a certain medication, they may change or stop the problematic medication. No one should stop or alter their medication without talking to a doctor first, however.
Young men typically have a good chance of reversing ED. This can be achieved through lifestyle changes that generally improve overall health and by taking medication, or both. It is not uncommon for young men with ED to go back to experiencing a normal sex life if they follow the treatment and advice provided by their doctors.