NHS Inform describes erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, as “the inability to get and maintain an erection” – and says around half of all men between 40 and 70 will have experienced it to some degree.
But, of the 494 men involved in the study, 21% were not aware that male fertility issues could be affected by alcohol consumption or other problems such as being overweight or struggling with your mental health.
And while 43% of male respondents were unaware that excessive alcohol can impact erections, surprisingly just 15% did not know that excessive exercise can do the same.
So what can cause erectile dysfunction?
NHS Inform says it can be caused by:
Narrowing of the blood vessels going to the penis – this can be caused by hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes
Surgery or injury
Psychological causes such as anxiety, depression or relationship issues
The Fertility Index also noted some other common causes, such as:
Excessive alcohol consumption
Excessive drug use
Taking certain medications
Having MS and Parkinson’s disease
Erectile dysfunction can also happen on occasion, like when you masturbate or feel pressured to perform – although this means it’s more likely to be caused by psychological problems.
But if you can never get an erection, it’s more likely to be a sign of an ongoing physical problem.
Why is it important to talk about it?
Surgeon Tet Yap, co-founder of the London Andrology clinic, said: “Unfortunately, men’s fertility and sexual health issues are still taboo subjects for far too many of us.”
And, it’s pretty common.
According to the study, alcohol has impacted 20% of men’s ability to have sex, while being overweight has affected 13% of men’s erections and 11% said mental health stopped them getting it up.
Meanwhile, 7% agreed that smoking had given them erectile dysfunction, while 5% said drug habits had affected them.
How can you treat erectile dysfunction?
NHS Inform advises you to see a GP if you struggle with impotence for more than a few weeks. Doctors will then assess your overall health because it could indicate more serious health conditions.
In a video posted online, Yap explained that erectile dysfunction is “progressive but it can be treated”.
“If there is a background cause like diabetes to it, if you can treat the diabetes, you optimise the patient, definitely erections get better,” he said.
He explained hyper-tension and high cholesterol could possibly impact erections too, and it’s best for doctors to treat the reversible elements first.
He also said there were other strategies to treat it, like Viagra.
Professor Suks Minhas explained: “Viagra is understandably used as a quick fix for erectile dysfunction (ED) as it is a very effective tool and allows men to ensure they remain erect.
“Many men are unaware that ED can actually be part of a bigger or more serious underlying health issue and it is important that men don’t ignore the issue or just turn to Viagra long-term.”
Yap said it’s possible to use a “vacuum pump” too, and creams, pellets, injections and finally surgery too for erection dysfunction.
NHS Inform also pointed out that erectile dysfunction can be treated by CBT and sex therapy, if the root cause is psychological.