Sexual dysfunctions are more common in the early adult years, with the majority of people seeking care for such conditions during their late twenties through thirties. The incidence increases again in the geriatric population, typically with gradual onset of symptoms that are associated most commonly with medical causes of sexual dysfunction.
The problem of an inadequate erection is probably one of the biggest issues a man confronts. Most men experience erectile problems on occasion, but impotence, also called erectile dysfunction, is defined as "the persistent failure to develop and maintain erections of sufficient rigidity for penetrative sexual intercourse." Of course, men have other kinds of sexual problems including lack of desire and problems with ejaculation, yet impotence is the most common and troubling.
The creation of an erection is an extremely complicated cascade of events that requires many different things to happen. There are numerous chemical transmitters involved in this including epinephrine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, prostaglandins and nitric oxide. The exact mechanism by which erection occurs is still unclear but we do know that the neural input from the brain is extremely important. Reflex erections, as seen in people with cord damage such as paraplegics, are often poor erections and not sustainable for prolonged periods of intercourse.
Erectile dysfunction can occur suddenly or gradually. Some men slowly lose the firmness of their erections or how long the erections last. In other men, especially those whose impotence is largely caused by psychological factors, the problem may occur unpredictably and can improve at any time. Despite their difficulties with erections, men with impotence often continue to have normal orgasm and ejaculation.
Little is known about how to prevent erectile dysfunction. However, avoiding cigarette smoking and maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help because smoking and high cholesterol can affect blood vessels. Men with diabetes should strive to keep blood sugar levels under control. Because certain medications have been associated with erectile dysfunction, ask your doctor about possible side effects before you start using any new prescription.