Penile nerve damage can cause erectile dysfunction. This may occur from medical conditions, such as diabetes, injuries, such as spinal cord injury, or pelvic surgery.

Nerve damage is not the most common cause of erectile dysfunction (ED), but it can be a cause.

Other effects of nerve damage-induced ED may include urinary incontinence or being unable to urinate.

Finding the underlying cause of ED and treating it may help people manage the condition.

This article examines the link between nerve damage and ED, possible causes, and treatment options.

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Certain health conditions, injuries, or pelvic surgery may cause damage to nerves in the penis. This may prevent nerve signals from the spinal cord from reaching the penis.

Sexual arousal causes nerves to release certain chemicals that increase blood flow into erection chambers within the penis.

As the blood pressure within these chambers increases, the penis becomes firm and causes an erection. Nerve damage can have an impact on this process, leading to ED.

People may have ED if they are consistently unable to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for sex.

If nerve damage is causing ED, people may have additional symptoms, depending on what type of nerve damage is causing ED.

Autonomic nerve damage is a type of nerve damage that affects the sex organs and other organs and can cause ED.

Autonomic nerve damage that causes ED can also cause problems with the bladder and bowels, such as:

If injury or surgery to the pelvic area causes ED, people may experience:

Various conditions or injuries may lead to nerve damage, such as:

To diagnose ED and nerve damage, a doctor may perform a physical examination to determine what is causing ED.

A doctor may also use blood tests, questionnaires, or ultrasound scans to check for other physical or psychological causes.

Various treatments may be effective in treating nerve damage-induced ED.

They may include:

Research suggests that PDE5 inhibitors are a safe and effective first-line treatment for nerve-related ED.

Second-line treatments include penile injections of prostaglandin E1, papaverine, or phentolamine, and vacuum devices. If these treatments are not effective, penile implants may be an effective option.

How long ED will last and whether nerve-related ED is reversible or curable may depend on the underlying cause and extent of nerve damage.

In some cases, nerve damage may be irreversible, but in other cases, surgery may be an effective option.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about erectile dysfunction and nerve damage.

What nerve damage can cause erectile dysfunction?

Various conditions may cause nerve damage that could lead to ED, such as:

What is neurological erectile dysfunction?

Neurological ED is the term for ED that is due to neurological impairment.

This can include nerve damage, which can affect erectile function. This may be due to injury, surgery, or conditions such as diabetes.

However, nerve damage is only one type of neurological impairment.

Aside from nerve damage, other neurological causes of ED include:

What is the biggest cause of erectile dysfunction?

Abnormalities with the penile arteries or veins are the most common cause of ED, particularly in older adults.

However, this is different than nerve damage, with which there is no link.

If problems with the arteries are causing ED, it is usually due to arteriosclerosis.

Risk factors for arteriosclerosis include:

ED can be an early warning sign of vascular disease. Other causes include:

Nerve damage can affect erectile function and cause ED. Nerve damage may occur due to factors such as:

  • a medical condition such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis
  • injury to the nerves or spinal cord
  • surgery to the pelvic area

There are many treatments for nerve-related ED. Depending on the underlying cause, some cases of ED may be reversible.

In other cases, treatments, such as medications or devices, can help manage symptoms.