Why do younger men suffer from erectile dysfunction?

Posted 28 May 2019 in Erectile Dysfunction

A frustrated young man in bed suffering from erectile dysfunction. Source medicalimages.comErectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem generally viewed in society as being associated with middle aged and elderly men. However, contrary to popular belief, ED can affect men of all ages, and does affect plenty of younger men. But why?

There are numerous physical and emotional factors which can cause or contribute to ED. Anxiety is a major contributor for younger men. You may worry that your partner is negatively judging your sexual performance, or that they won’t reach orgasm. You might fear that a partner will become pregnant. These anxious feelings may result in a stress response, directing blood away from the penis to other parts of the body, and therefore causing loss of erection. (1, 2)

ED in younger men may also be caused by anxiety or stress that is not directly related to sexual activity. Just a few examples of factors which can contribute to anxiety and stress are problems in the workplace, financial struggles, ill health (yourself or a relative or friend) or a rocky relationship. All of this can have an impact on ED. What’s more, ED can cause further anxiety, worsening the problem in a cruel spiral. (2)

If you smoke and suffer with ED, you may want to consider stopping as smoking is a major cause of the condition in many men, younger and older. The components of cigarette smoke can have a damaging effect on blood vessels, including those in the penis. One such effect is the formation of plaque on the walls of the blood vessels, known as atherosclerosis. This makes the area through which blood can flow narrower, impairing the surge in blood flow to the penis that is essential for an erection. Visit your GP for help getting started on your path to being smoke free. Alternatively, many pharmacies offer a smoking cessation service, with regular meetings with a member of staff to guide you through the quitting process. (2)

Alcohol can also be a culprit. In the short term, after a session of heavy drinking, the physiological response to sexual arousal can be sluggish or non-existent, causing an episode of poor erectile function. However, this should right itself once you sober up. In the long term, persistent binge drinking can damage the blood vessels of the penis, leading to ED. Stick to no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, and no more than 8 units in one drinking session. (2, 3, 4)

Being overweight or obese, particularly if you carry a lot of excess weight around the abdomen, puts you at higher risk of ED. Having a greater body mass means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body and to your extremities, such as the tip of the penis. A diet high in fat and cholesterol can also lead to atherosclerosis, as with smoking. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise at least five times a week, and reduce or cut out high fat foods such as cheese, red meat, chocolate, cakes and biscuits, and fried foods. (5)

If you’re an avid cyclist or commute to work by bike, this can work wonders for your cardiovascular health and help to keep excess weight off. But did you know that cycling for over three hours per week can be a cause of ED? Prolonged or regular pressure on the pudendal nerve, which runs through the perineum (the area separating the genitals from the anus), can damage this nerve which plays a part in erectile function. You could consider supplementing cycling with other forms of exercise, or investing in a specialised saddle which is designed to ease pressure on the perineum. (3, 6)

Taking all of this into account, it really isn’t a surprise that younger men can experience ED. There are so many lifestyle factors and health conditions which affect men of all ages and can also contribute to ED. Don’t be embarrassed to seek a diagnosis and treatment – remember there are plenty of other men in your position and your doctor is there to help. If you don’t want to see your doctor initially, Viagra Connect (sildenafil) is available over the counter in pharmacies, subject to filling out a safety questionnaire. However, you’ll be strongly advised to see your doctor within six months of starting Viagra Connect, as it is important that your doctor knows which medicines you are taking on a regular basis, as well as to rule out any serious problems which may be contributing to your ED.

Viagra Connect is available to buy from Webmed, and the prescription only ED medicines Cialis (tadalafil), Spedra (avanafil), Levitra (vardenafil) and higher strength Viagra (sildenafil) are available to purchase here, as well as the generic sildenafil and tadalafil, after a quick medical questionnaire which is reviewed by a doctor.

References

  1. British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Erectile dysfunction (male impotence) [cited 24 May 2019. Available at: https://www.bpas.org/more-services-information/erectile-dysfunction/

  2. International Society for Sexual Medicine. Is erectile dysfunction (ED) common in men under age 40? [cited 24 May 2019]. Available at: https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/is-erectile-dysfunction-ed-common-in-men-under-age-40/

  3. NHS. Erectile dysfunction (impotence) [cited 24 May 2019]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/erection-problems-erectile-dysfunction/

  4. NHS. Binge drinking [cited 24 May 2019]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/binge-drinking-effects/

  5. The Telegraph (2018). ‘Does anxiety cause erectile dysfunction?’ [cited 24 May 2019]. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/living-with-erectile-dysfunction/does-anxiety-cause-erectile-dysfunction/

  6. Men’s Health. Is Your Bike Killing Your Boner? [cited 24 May 2019]. Available at: https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19539158/can-bicycles-cause-erectile-dysfunction/

Author
Gabby Gallaher MPharm

Medically reviewed by
Superintendent pharmacist Margaret Hudson BSc(Hons) MRPharmS
24th May 2019

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