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Men's Health

Erection Problems

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Erection problems are common and can often be solved with self-care. By definition, an erection problem is difficulty in raising or maintaining an erection capable of intercourse.

Erection problems are often caused by stress at work, tension in relationships, depression, fatigue, lack of privacy, physical injury, or side effects of medications. These causes are generally temporary and will usually resolve with Home Treatment. Other, less reversible causes include diabetes, a long history of smoking, nerve damage, and vascular disease.

The ease of gaining and sustaining erections generally decreases with age. However, with the right foreplay and environment, there is no age limit to the ability of healthy men to have erections.


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Most erection problems can be prevented or resolved by taking a more relaxed approach to lovemaking and watching for possible side effects from medications or illnesses.

Home Treatment

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  • Rule out medications first. Many drugs, especially blood pressure medicines, water pills (diuretics), and mood-altering drugs, have side effects that can cause erection problems. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to check your medications for possible effects on sexual function, or look it up yourself.

  • Avoid alcohol and smoking, which make erection problems worse.

  • Cope with stress (see Mental Health Problems and Mind-Body Wellness). Tension in your life can distract you and make getting erections difficult. Regular exercise and other stress-relieving activities may help ease tension.

  • Take time for more foreplay. Let your partner know that you would enjoy some stroking. Slow down; then slow down some more.

  • Make sure you're ready. If you have recently experienced a loss or change in a relationship, you may not yet be emotionally ready for erections. Generally, your stress will subside and your erection problem will disappear over time. Do what you can to relax.

  • Find out if you can have erections at other times. If you can have an erection during masturbation or on awakening, the problem is probably stress-related or may be caused by an emotional problem.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If you think that a medication may be causing the problem. Your doctor may prescribe a different medication.

  • If you are unable to have an erection at all, or think that your problem may be a physical one.

  • If you have other symptoms such as urinary problems, pain in the lower abdomen or lower back, or fever.

  • If your symptoms are related to a recent injury.

If you have tried Home Treatment for a few months but your symptoms have not improved, you may wish to talk with your doctor about erection-producing medications or injections, a vacuum device, or a penile implant. Getting all the facts and thinking about your own and your partner's needs and values will help you make a wise decision about treatment for erection problems.

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