Erectile Dysfunction FAQs

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects about half of men over age 50. Mercy doctors offer compassionate care to help men find ED causes and discuss treatment options.

What’s erectile dysfunction?

ED is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. Occasional episodes aren’t a concern, but persistent ED could be a sign of a health issue. If you’re concerned, talk with your Mercy doctor.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

When blood doesn’t flow well to the penis or its nerves are damaged, men can develop ED. Injury, surgery, heart disease, peripheral arterial disease and high blood pressure increase ED risk. It can also result from high blood sugar, smoking, alcohol or substance use. Some prescription medications can cause ED. Mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and relationship issues may lead to or worsen ED.

How can you treat erectile dysfunction?

Lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, losing excess weight, not smoking, limiting alcohol and avoiding substance use can improve ED symptoms. Treating emotional issues, such as stress, depression, anxiety or relationship concerns may also be needed.

Medications and other therapies are used to treat ED, including:

  • PDE-5 inhibitors – These oral drugs help relax muscles and increase blood flow.
  • Testosterone therapy – Men with low testosterone can benefit from hormone replacement.
  • Intracavernosal (ICI) and intraurethral (IU) therapies – Medicines delivered directly to the penis through injection or a medicated pellet can improve blood flow.
  • Surgery – Surgical procedures can treat young men with pelvic injuries or older men who’ve had urologic cancers.

Some medications can cause priapism, a painful erection lasting more than four hours. Blood trapped in the penis can damage tissues or worsen ED. Go to the nearest ER if you experience priapism.

What medications cause erectile dysfunction?

ED is a common medication side effect. Medications that may cause or worsen ED include:

  • Heart rhythm medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Anti-seizure drugs
  • Chemotherapy medications
  • Diuretics
  • Histamine H2-receptor antagonists (stomach medications)
  • Hormones
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Parkinson’s disease drugs
  • Prostate cancer drugs
  • Tranquilizers

Using some substances can lead to permanent ED. These include:

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Methadone
  • Nicotine
  • Opiates

Can you treat erectile dysfunction naturally?

Dietary supplements for ED often aren’t safe or effective. Check with your Mercy doctor before taking them. The FDA warns consumers not to use unapproved ED drugs. While supplements may include PDE-5 inhibitors, they may also have overly high amounts of other unapproved substances. 

How long does erectile dysfunction last after prostate surgery?

Most men experience ED for the first few months after prostate surgery. Men with intact nerves may see significant improvement within a year of surgery.

Find a Urologist

Mercy has experienced urologists across most of our communities. 

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