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Treatment options

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is a common sexual health problem affecting millions of men worldwide. The condition is defined as being unable to get, or maintain, an erection sufficient for having sexual intercourse.

Erectile dysfunction is a condition that affects men of all ages. It is a common perception that it is more likely to affect older men but this isn’t correct. Any man of any age can experience erectile dysfunction. It can happen occasionally, or regularly, with or without any clear reason and shouldn’t be a source of shame or embarrassment.

While occasional erection problems can be caused by stress, anxiety, relation problems, tiredness or recreational habits, such as drinking too much alcohol of using illicit drugs, regular erection problems may be due to an underlying health condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure (known as hypertension), heart diseases, obesity or low testosterone blood levels.

Talking to your doctor about erectile dysfunction

Some men with erectile dysfunction are not able to get an erection at all and may avoid sexual activity as a result. We know sexual health can be an embarrassing topic to discuss with your doctor, but sex is an important part of a person’s life and overall well-being and erection problems can be distressing for both you and your partner.

If you or a loved one are experiencing erection problems, talk your doctor today. They will have seen many men in your situation and can help you to feel in control of your body again.

If you’re not sure how to approach your doctor, you could start by saying “I want to talk to you about a men’s health issue”, “I’m having some personal problems”, or “I’m having difficulty during sex”.

In any discussions with your doctor, it’s important not to be shy and to try to be as open and honest as possible when asked questions about your overall health and lifestyle. For instance, if you’re a heavy drinker or smoker, it’s better to be open about this, rather than try to conceal these habits, as simple lifestyle changes could address the problem. Equally, erectile dysfunction is often associated with other health problems, so if you find you need to urinate more often, urinate in a hurry, or have to get up in the night to urinate, your problem may be caused by underlying health issues, such as benign prostatic enlargement , which can be treated with medication or surgery.

Video about erectile dysfunction as a comorbidity

This animated video talks about erectile dysfunction as a comorbidity.

This information was produced by the European Association of Urology (EAU) and updated in January 2023.

This chapter contains general information about erectile dysfunction.

If you have any specific questions about your individual medical situation, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. No website or leaflet can replace a personal conversation with your doctor.


  • Dr. Barbora Žemličková, Prague (CZ), EAU Patient Information Working Group
  • Professor Andrea Salonia, (IT), EAU Sexual and Reproductive Health Guidelines Panel
  • Ms Karin Briggs, London (UK), Urology Centre Guy’s Hospital London

This information has been reviewed by a lay panel.