Texas Fertility Center

Erectile Dysfunction and Infertility

Erectile dysfunction is also called impotence or ED

ED is the inability to attain or maintain an erection of the penis that is firm enough for penetration during sexual intercourse. To initiate and maintain an erection, the penis must fill with blood. Nerve signals stimulate this engorgement. They prompt the blood vessels in the penis to expand so blood can fill it. Meanwhile, other blood vessels constrict, trapping blood inside.

Causes of erectile dysfunction

Venous Leak: If the blood vessels (veins) which normally compress during an erection do not fully compress, an erection may not be attainable or may not last long. This can be caused by injury or diseases which prevent the full expansion of the vessels (arteries) which normally expand with blood.

Neurovascular Function: Erection cannot be attained if nerve signals do not prompt blood vessels to do their job or if blood flow to the penis is reduced. Nerve dysfunction can also diminish feeling in the penis, resulting in impotence. Many medications can cause erectile dysfunction by impairing either vascular or nerve function.

Medical conditions that can lead to neurovascular dysfunction include:

  • Diabetes: can interfere with nerve signals
  • Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries): can reduce blood flow
  • Peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord injury, and surgery: can damage nerves

Psychological Factors: Psychological factors account for 10%-15% of erectile dysfunction cases. The brain initiates many of the nerve signals required for a successful erection. Problems in your relationship, feelings of guilt associated with sex, depression, anxiety, and stress can all lead to erectile dysfunction. Recent estimates suggest that roughly 20 million US men have erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction increases with age, from about 5% at age 40, to 15%-25% at age 65 and older.]

Symptoms of erectile dysfunction

Penile erection is a complex interaction of both halves of your autonomic (automatic) nervous system, your blood circulation, and your emotions. Therefore, the patient may have symptoms suggestive of a psychological problem, such as depression, and/or a medical problem, such as diabetes. Any one of these conditions can lead to erectile dysfunction.
Symptoms include:

  • A less firm penis
  • Fewer erections
  • Fewer spontaneous nighttime erections

Your penis is made up of cylinders with tough linings. These linings can hold large amounts of blood at sufficient pressure to keep it stiff for a period of time. Normally, when stimulated either locally or from your emotions, blood vessels that empty your penis constrict. This prevents blood from exiting. Blood vessels inside your penis open to accept more blood.

Take the first step toward reaching your goal. Call our office today and schedule a consultation with one of our male fertility physicians. We serve the Austin, San Antonio, and Houston areas with comprehensive reproductive endocrinology and infertility care.

Find out more. Read about risk factors for ED, erectile dysfunction.

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