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Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is usually associated with increased age. Though it is rarer for younger men to experience ED, it can still happen. A July 2013 study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that 1 in 4 patients newly diagnosed with ED are under the age of 40. Fully half of the patients in the study suffered from severe ED.

ED can be an embarrassing topic to discuss, but is particularly problematic for young men to bring up. Millions of men experience ED and excellent treatment options are available. Both of these factors should make it easier to broach the subject with your health care provider. Though it may be uncomfortable to discuss ED, remember that it can be a sign of an underlying disease that may be life-threatening. Addressing ED will improve both your mental and physical well-being.

What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, also called impotence, is an inability to get or maintain an erection that is firm enough for sexual intercourse.

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men?

There are a number of different causes of ED. The causes in young men are similar to the causes in older men and can be both physical and psychological in origin. Here are some of the most common causes of ED.


Anxiety, stress, and other psychological conditions can contribute to or cause ED. Nervousness about getting a partner pregnant, fear of losing an erection, condom use, and performance anxiety can all lead to episodic ED. Unfortunately, these simple causes of ED often create a negative feedback loop in which a single incidence of ED makes you more anxious and thus more prone to ED in the future. Depression can also lead to ED.

Narrow Blood Vessels

Decreased blood flow to the penis is the primary cause of ED. Conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol can contribute to narrowing of the blood vessels, but they are not the only associated factors. Diabetes, obesity, injury to the penis, and even fatigue can contribute to decreased penile blood flow. A family history of heart disease is also a risk factor for ED after the age of 40.

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones control both libido (sex drive) and erectile function. Hormone imbalances, such as might arise after anabolic steroid use, can put an individual at a higher risk of ED. Changes in hormones like testosterone, thyroid hormone, and prolactin can contribute to ED.


Prescription, non-prescription, and illicit drugs can all cause ED. Even alcohol and smoking are linked to ED. Always consult with your doctor before you change or stop a prescription drug, even if you think it might be contributing to ED. Once the offending agent is stopped, the ED should subside.

Anatomical Causes

Conditions like Peyronie’s (bending of the erect penis), phimosis (tight foreskin), and other anatomical conditions can lead to ED. Anatomical conditions are often readily amenable to surgical treatment.

What Are the Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction in Young Men?

The treatment of ED is dependent upon the cause. In general, treatments are the same for both young and old men. Here is a look at several common treatment modalities.

Psychological Treatment

Counseling or therapy to help you deal with stress, depression, performance anxiety, and other psychological conditions are highly effective. In many cases, ED medicines are combined with psychological treatment to help with ED in the short term. The medications are discontinued once the counseling takes effect.

Lifestyle Changes

Obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, and other lifestyle factors can lead to ED. Lifestyle changes that improve your fitness level and help you stop smoking can all be effective in treating ED. Men who drink heavily or use illicit drugs find that reduced consumption and abstinence are beneficial.


There are a number of highly effective prescription drugs used to treat ED. Examples of common ED drugs include Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and Spedra. All of these medications can be purchased at a pharmacy or online. They all work by opening up the arteries to improve blood flow to the penis.

Physical Treatment

The major physical treatments for ED include vacuum pumps and constriction rings. Vacuum pumps are designed to help men achieve an erection by drawing blood into the penis. By pumping air out of a chamber placed on the penis, vacuum pumps create a negative pressure environment that favors blood flow to the penis.

For men with difficulty maintaining an erection, constriction rings are effective. These rings are simply placed at the base of the erect penis to trap blood and help maintain a firm erection


Surgery is generally a last resort for men who do not respond to any of the treatments above. There are two types of surgery. The first type of surgery simply attempts to open clogged blood vessels in much the same way as a cardiac catheterization (cath) does. The second type of surgery implants either a flexible rod or an inflatable balloon into the penis. The rod is bent upward for sex and downward for urination. The balloon is inflated for sex and deflated for urination. Balloons are generally filled with liquid, not air.

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Doctor's Advice

If you suffer from erectile dysfunction, it can be a difficult subject to talk about and come to terms with. The very first thing you should do is seek out medical help to find a solution that is right and safe for you.

There is some background information that you should be aware of and we recommend that you read below.

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