Impotence-the facts

Impotence (erectile dysfunction)

Students aren’t impotent. Or are they?

Impotence can be defined as the inability to achieve and maintain an erection that is firm enough for satisfactory sexual intercourse. The condition is common, affecting 1:10 men over the age of 21. Whilst one of the commonest causes is age, it does affect young men too. One thing is for sure, if you start worrying about having an erection, the harder it is to achieve.

Other sexual dysfunctions that affect men are premature ejaculation, inability to reach orgasm and lack of libido (reduced sex drive). These should be seen separately from impotence, but can run alongside.

The commonest causes of erectile dysfunction are:

  • getting older.
  • coronary artery disease.
  • high blood pressure.
  • diabetes mellitus. In the case of diabetes, changes to the arteries and smaller blood vessels supplying blood to the penis and damage to the nerves involved in erectile function predispose 50-75% of men to erectile dysfunction.
  • alcoholism
  • drugs
  • psychological causes
  • traumatic injury to the spinal cord
  • multiple sclerosis
  • surgical procedures to the pelvic region (eg after prostate surgery)
  • malformed or damaged genitalia
If you are suffering from impotence, don’t sit in your room thinking you must be weird, go and see your doctor. You will need a short examination and some blood tests. Often, the problem of impotence can be solved by understanding the process of sexual arousal and overcoming the ‘performance anxiety’ that is commonly the cause of erectile dysfunction in younger men with no related medical problems.

The introduction of viagra (sildenafil) has transformed the treatment of impotence and can be used in many situations. It is taken about 1 hour before you plan to have sex and will not produce an erection unless you are sexually stimulated. It might not always be available on the NHS, but the tablets are not hugely expensive and may be appropriate.

Further information

The Sexual Dysfunction Association


This article published on
12 December 2005

Next review date 12/1/2013


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