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Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction: Is this a medical condition? Or a symptom of something worse.


Although erectile dysfunction is a very serious matter, the best way to describe what is actually happening is by means of an old joke that used to be in Jerry Seinfeld’s standup routine. He is talking about a television commercial for Tide detergent which makes the claim that it is so effective that it can even remove blood stains. Jerry Seinfeld comments on this ad by saying if you have blood stains on your clothes you have a lot more serious problems than just getting them clean.

That is exactly the point in erectile dysfunction. Having problems getting or maintaining an erection is certainly a very serious condition that must be addressed but what most men do not realize that it may be a symptom of a much more serious condition known as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Another cause of erectile dysfunction is the side-effects from prescription drugs. The most common culprits are medications that lower your blood pressure which includes your blood pressure everywhere including your penis and antidepressant medications which are notorious for causing sexual dysfunction in males.

Once you have ruled out any possibility of heart disease or circulation problems caused by Type 2 diabetes and there are no medications involved that lower blood pressure or reduce blood flow to the extremities you are then left with psychological factors such as stress, anxiety and guilt. Unfortunately many men who have lost an erection during sexual intercourse may then suffer from performance anxiety and continue to have the problem even though there is no physical reason.

Taking sexual performance drugs such as Viagra, Cialis or Levitra may not always be the answer and could be dangerous because you are treating symptoms and not the cause. These medications are very expensive, have very serious side effects (sudden drop in blood pressure, temporary loss of colour vision, heart attacks and even dependency) and could be masking a much more serious condition.

Medical Conditions Causing Sexual Dysfunction

Atherosclerosis: This is a condition in which fatty deposits (atheromas) accumulate inside the walls of your arteries. This leads to a narrowing of the arteries which causes increased pressure and decreased blood flow. The human body contains three types of blood vessels; arteries, veins and capillaries. As the blood flows away from the heart it travels through arteries which get reduced in size the farther they are away from your heart. The blood eventually is transported into very tiny capillaries, the thinnest of all blood vessels and they are found in your extremities, toes, fingers and your eyes. The capillaries then pass the blood onto the veins which take the blood back to your heart. Atherosclerosis is a disease which will start in the capillaries reducing or blocking blood flow and one of the principal causes of this condition at an early age is heavy smoking.

Many men who seem to be in perfect health die of sudden heart attacks in their forties. However, maybe some of these men had a problem they did not want to see a doctor about. If a man in his late thirties or forties begins to suffer erectile dysfunction he may have the beginning of atherosclerosis. If fatty deposits are accumulating in the capillaries surrounding the penis this is the first symptom of impending heart disease. Rather than take sexual enhancement drugs, a person with this problem should see their physician and have a complete physical and extensive blood work.

This condition is totally reversible with a low fat diet and consistent aerobic exercise. Most men who acquire this condition at a young age are usually heavy smokers so this issue must also be addressed. This is why most medications are never the answer. If a male with sexual dysfunction simply uses drugs for his symptoms he may be masking the symptoms of heart disease and may be at risk for a sudden heart attack; a condition that is a lot worse than losing your erection.

Type 2 Diabetes\

Type 2 diabetes is an acquired disease that accounts for between 90 and 95 per cent of all diabetics. It is caused by a combination of poor diet (primarily sugars and fats) along with a sedentary life style. Although millions of people across Canada suffer from this disease there are probably hundreds of thousands of people who may have Type 2 diabetes and do not know it. The main symptoms are frequent urination and being hungry and thirsty all the time. The destruction in your body caused by Type 2 diabetes can very readily cause erectile dysfunction.

The poor diet and lack of movement of the individual cause that person’s cells to become very resistant to taking in sugars. Normally the carbohydrates in sugars supply energy to the cells but because the diabetic does not use this energy the cells resist its entry and they are eventually stored as fat. Over time this causes a condition known as neuropathy which describes the slow deterioration of body parts.   In the case of Type 2 diabetics it starts in the kidneys and this causes water retention and elevated blood pressure. The neuropathy takes place mostly in the extremities of the body such as fingers, toes and eyes. This leads to very poor circulation, poor blood flow and in the worst cases gangrene resulting in the surgical removal of limbs. Type 2 diabetics should be aware that the penis is also an extremity. A person with this condition may experience erectile dysfunction long before they suffer from tingling or lack of circulation in fingers and toes. In fact a person who is undiagnosed but may urinate a lot and is hungry and thirsty all the time should see a doctor immediately if they cannot maintain an erection.

Once again, using drugs to maintain an erection simply masks the symptoms of a terrible disease that can cause a very debilitating shortened life.

Miscellaneous Physical Conditions

There are many other conditions that may cause erectile dysfunction. If you have been treated for prostate cancer and have had the prostate gland removed or are taking a drug, either orally or by injection, that reduces testosterone production you will certainly have this condition. If you are a very heavy drinker or take illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or heroin you may certainly be a candidate for erection failure.

Drugs that cause Sexual Dysfunction

Blood Pressure Medications

As a general rule men are a lot less compliant about seeing their doctor than women. It is not surprising to find out that when men are prescribed drugs to lower their blood pressure they may have the effect of lowering it everywhere, including their penis. This may cause inability to achieve an erection or loss of an erection during intercourse. The problem is that most men do not want to talk about this issue with their physician and they simply accept this condition as part of the deal.

No matter what type of blood pressure drug you may be using they all work either directly or indirectly by slowing your heart rate and thus reducing the pressure at which the heart fills up and when the heart pumps out the blood. If you think of a garden hose spewing out water at full volume and what happens to that hose if you turn the tap down halfway. Unfortunately this happens to many men who are taking prescription drugs to lower their blood pressure.

Prescription drugs like Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil) or Levitra (vardenafil) act by relaxing smooth muscle tissue. This relaxation of the muscle leads to vasodilation and increased blood flow into the spongy tissue of the penis resulting in an erection. This particular activity was actually discovered by accident because Viagra was originally designed as a drug to lower blood pressure but it did not work very well. Once this side-effect was discovered a multi million industry evolved. However there have been many cases in which the Viagra actually did lower the blood pressure and when this occurs in a person already taking medication a very serious drop in blood flow occurs which may cause fainting or even a heart attack.

That is why if you are a man taking anti-hypertensive medication and you are suffering some form of sexual dysfunction make sure you discuss your problem openly with your physician before you try one of your friend’s little blue pills.


Unfortunately this has become one of the most widely prescribed drug categories in our country. Most physicians treat anxiety with antidepressant drugs even though they should only be using them for people who are severely depressed. This has resulted in a large portion of the population using antidepressants needlessly and suffering all their side effects. The two principal side-effects are insomnia and sexual dysfunction. Most physicians will even deny that these side-effects exist and even if you do have them they will usually insist you continue to take the drug. What can be more depressing to a male than the inability to achieve or maintain an erection?

These drugs are extremely addicting and as a result are very hard to discontinue. If you have erectile dysfunction try to discontinue your medication and seek cognitive therapy. Psychiatrists have huge waiting lists so why not see your priest, minister or rabbi and have a confidential chat about your problems. You will see them immediately and it will not cost any more than a donation to your place of worship.

Psychological Causes

If you are a male having sexual dysfunction issues and you have been thoroughly checked by your physician and know for a fact that there are no underlying physical conditions, then you have to consider the psychological  ones.

You might be dealing with very high levels of stress, maybe guilt over a past or present affair. Some men who may have an isolated incident of loss of erection during intercourse may then suffer from psychological performance anxiety.  These people may seek out a mental health professional but only after all possibilities of physical disease or drug related causes are ruled out.


Like most problems that can affect your body, sexual dysfunction is also preventable. A man who eats his five servings a day of fruit and vegetables, does not smoke, drinks alcohol in moderation and exercises daily will most likely not suffer from any serious diseases or illnesses including sexual dysfunction. However, if you are starting to see the development of this problem see your physician and have your body completely checked out to determine any possible causes because sexual dysfunction may be a symptom of something a lot more serious.