Most people experience sexual health problems at some point in their lives. Some sexual health problems that can affect males include persistent difficulties with erections and ejaculation or a lack of sexual desire.
These problems can occur for various reasons, such as underlying medical conditions, medications, mental health issues, or relationship problems.
After addressing any underlying causes, doctors can easily treat most sexual health problems.
This article looks at the types of sexual health problems males may experience, treatments, and tips to help prevent them.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
The term sexual dysfunction refers to any problems related to sexual activity. These problems may interrupt or hinder sexual activity or prevent a person from wanting or enjoying sex.
A person experiencing sexual dysfunction may have problems with:
- Sexual desire: A person who experiences problems with sexual desire may have little or no interest in sex that is not typical for them. It is different from asexuality, which is a sexual orientation.
- Arousal: A person may experience desire and be emotionally in the mood for sex, but their body does not respond.
- Orgasm: A person may be in the mood and able to have sex but may not be able to climax or achieve orgasm.
Dealing with sexual dysfunction can be difficult and stressful, but there are treatment options.
Sexual dysfunction can affect people of all ages, but the likelihood of experiencing sexual problems
This section looks at the different types of sexual problems a person may experience and how a person can treat them.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a recurring problem with achieving or maintaining an erection that is hard enough for sex.
According to the Urology Care Foundation (UCF), ED is the most common sexual problem that males report to a healthcare professional. UCF estimates that ED affects around 30 million males.
- cannot achieve an erection at any time
- can achieve an erection, but it does not stay long enough to have sex
- can achieve an erection sometimes, but not every time they wish to have sex
ED can be a symptom of another underlying condition or health-related factor. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), males with type 2 diabetes are 2–3 times more likely to develop ED than males without diabetes.
ED can affect older or younger males.
Treating erectile dysfunction
Treatment for ED may include:
- Lifestyle changes: A doctor may recommend exercise, healthy eating, and quitting smoking.
- Medications: These can include medications that increase blood flow to the penis, such as Viagra. A doctor may prescribe testosterone if the person has low testosterone levels in their blood.
- Penile injections or suppositories: Injecting medicine directly into the penis may help a person achieve an erection. A person can also insert a suppository into their urethra. Medications for this purpose include alprostadil and more.
- Penis pumps: These are tube-like devices that can help create and sustain an erection by pulling blood into the penis.
- Surgery: This should be a last resort if all other treatments have failed. Surgery may involve inserting penile implants to make the penis erect.
Learn more about treating erectile dysfunction.
Low libido, or low sex drive, is a persistent lack of interest in sex or lack of sexual desire.
It is not uncommon for sexual desire to increase and decrease throughout a person’s life, depending on hormones, age, mental health, and other circumstances.
However, when low libido feels distressing or impacts relationships, a person may consider it a problem.
Treating low libido
A doctor or healthcare professional may recommend the following treatments:
- Testosterone therapy: A
2017 studyfound that testosterone therapy improved libido in men whose testosterone levels were low.
- Medication: If low libido is a side effect of a medication, a doctor may suggest a change in prescription.
- Treating underlying conditions: Treating any underlying conditions, such as an underactive thyroid, may also help to improve a person’s sex drive.
- Exercise: A 2015 study showed that exercise could help men with low testosterone cope with low libido, relationship changes, and body image concerns.
- Therapy or counseling: A doctor may recommend this if relationship problems or mental health issues could be causing low libido.
Premature ejaculation (PE) occurs when a male ejaculates earlier than they would like during sex. People may also refer to PE as premature climax, early ejaculation, or rapid ejaculation.
In the United States, PE affects around 1 in 3 males aged 18–59. Although physical causes can lead to PE, it is usually a psychological issue.
PE may occur due to:
- low levels of serotonin in the brain, which can reduce the time it takes to ejaculate
- anxiety about sexual performance
- lack of confidence
- relationship issues
Treating premature ejaculation
If PE is causing problems in a relationship, making sex less enjoyable, or negatively affecting a person’s mental health, they can speak with a doctor to discuss treatment options.
Treatment for PE may include:
- psychological therapy or counseling
- behavioral therapy to train the body to delay ejaculation
- medications to affect serotonin levels
- applying topical numbing creams or sprays to the penis to decrease sensation before having sex
Delayed ejaculation, or inhibited ejaculation, occurs when a male is unable to ejaculate when they want to, it takes a long period of stimulation before they can ejaculate, or they are unable to ejaculate at all.
Delayed or inhibited ejaculation may occur due to:
- certain medications
- alcohol and drug use
- injury or surgery to the pelvis or genitals
- hormonal conditions
- multiple sclerosis
- nerve damage
- stress or tiredness
Treating delayed ejaculation
Treatment for delayed ejaculation may include:
- counseling or therapy
- switching medications
- vibrator or electrical stimulation of the penis to trigger ejaculation
Retrograde ejaculation occurs when semen travels backward into the bladder during ejaculation rather than out of the penis.
Symptoms of retrograde ejaculation include having little to no ejaculate when reaching orgasm and urine appearing cloudy following orgasm.
- certain medications, such as some antidepressants or drugs for urinary problems
- surgical procedures that may affect nerve or vascular function
- surgical procedures for prostate enlargement, such as transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)
- nerve damage resulting from diabetes
- medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis
Treating retrograde ejaculation
Treatment for retrograde ejaculation
Generally, if patients develop retrograde ejaculation as a result of certain medications, the issue will subside when the medication is stopped.
However, if it is a result of surgery, retrograde ejaculation is generally not reversible.
A range of mental, emotional, or physical issues can cause sexual dysfunction in males. This section looks at some common causes.
- Mental health: Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress can play a part in affecting sexual function.
- Physical health: Physical health issues that may lead to sexual dysfunction can include hormone imbalances and diabetes. Lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking, and using drugs can also cause sexual dysfunction.
- Age: According to research, sexual dysfunction is common in males of all different ages, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds, with 52% of males aged 40–70 experiencing sexual dysfunction to varying degrees. According to a
2019 review, aging impacts sexual function. This may be due to the development or progression of certain health conditions, such as cardiovascular issues.
Find out more about sexual health in males.
People can take steps to protect their physical and mental health, which may help prevent sexual dysfunction. These steps include:
- maintaining a healthy lifestyle through a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management
- keeping any existing health conditions under control
- achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs
- considering psychotherapy if a mental health issue is affecting sexual function or enjoyment
- talking to healthcare professional if a medication could be causing sexual dysfunction
Find out more about maintaining sexual health.
If a person has any symptoms of sexual dysfunction, it is important to contact a doctor or other healthcare professional.
People may also find the following resources helpful:
- Planned Parenthood
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- The American Society for Reproductive Medicine
- The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists
People may also find it helpful to talk with their partner for emotional support or consider seeing a relationship or sex therapist if relationship issues could be a factor in sexual dysfunction.
Experiencing sexual problems may be difficult and can often put a strain on a sexual relationship. However, there are ways to improve overall well-being and satisfaction in a relationship.
The study found that communicating and engaging in other sexual or non-sexual activities can be helpful to couples experiencing desire discrepancy.
Learn more about sex and relationships
Sexual dysfunction is the term for a range of disorders affecting sexual function. If people have persistent problems affecting erections, ejaculation, or sex drive, they may need to contact a doctor or healthcare professional.
Sexual dysfunction can occur due to underlying health conditions, psychological reasons, or medication.
Depending on the cause, lifestyle changes, medical treatments, or therapy may help to treat sexual dysfunction.