What is impotence?

Impotence is the inability to achieve or sustain an erection adequate for sexual intercourse. It is a common, treatable condition affecting over 10 million men in the United States alone. Yet, over 90% of affected men never receive treatment. This is often because they are reluctant to discuss the subject with their doctor.

Facts on Impotence
Over 10 million men and their partners unnecessarily suffer the effects of impotence. Today's treatment options enable most men, regardless of their age, to overcome impotence. Clinical studies prove that up to 75% of impotence cases aren't psychological. In fact, impotence is often a symptom of an underlying physical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes. Impotence can be successfully treated. Doctors who specialize in treating impotence (usually urologists) can show you safe, proven ways to enjoy sex again.

What causes impotence?
Until recently, many health care professionals believed impotence was psychological. Patients were often told, "It's all in your head."

Today, experts have learned that up to 75% of impotence cases aren't psychological in nature. Impotence is often a symptom of an underlying physical condition or a side effect of medication.

Most men experience occasional impotence at some time, usually as a result of fatigue, temporary stress, or excessive alcohol consumption. Temporary impotence is not something to worry about. However, if the condition persists or interferes with your normal sexual activity, you should consider seeing a doctor who specializes in treating impotence.

Physical Causes

Among the physical causes of impotence are:
  • Blockage in the arteries
  • Diabetes
  • Disease of the erectile tissue of the penis
  • Pelvic surgery and/or trauma
  • Side effects of medications
  • Chronic Disease (such as kidney or liver failure)
  • Hormonal/Endocrine problems
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse
  • Psychological Causes
Men who experience a sudden loss of erectile capability often have a psychological origin to their condition. Psychological causes of impotence include:
  • Stress and anxiety from work
  • Performance anxiety
  • Marital discord
  • Unresolved sexual orientation
Typically, patients whose impotence is primarily psychological continue to have erections while they sleep or when they get up in the morning. Erectile Dysfunction can be a result or a sign of health problems, because of this impotence patients are evaluated from the following chart, and treated based on their fitness and current health.

What kinds of doctors specialize in the treatment of impotence?
As a group, urologists are most knowledgeable about impotence and its treatments, and they are comfortable discussing this sensitive subject. Many psychiatrists and psychologists also treat impotence, but keep in mind that up to 75% of impotence cases are not psychological in nature.

What happens during the first visit?
The first visit with the doctor often involves an exam. This exam will probably include your medical and sexual history, followed by a physical examination and basic laboratory tests. The results will help the doctor determine the cause and extent of the condition and suggest possible treatment options. Uncovering the underlying medical condition or medication responsible for impotence is an important first step in successful treatment.

Questions many men ask about impotence and its treatment.

Q: When should I see a doctor about impotence?
A: Most men experience impotence at some time in their lives as a result of stress, fatigue, or excessive alcohol consumption. This temporary impotence is generally no cause for serious concern. If the situation persists or interferes with normal sexual activity, consult a physician who specializes in treating impotence.

Q: What treatments are available?
A: Currently, there are a number of options that have been proven to be appropriate treatments for impotence. A specialist can explain the best course of treatment from among the following:
  1. Hormone Treatments
    A small percentage of impotence cases are caused by abnormal levels of sex hormones, like testosterone, prolactin, and estrogen. Medications can restore this balance.
  2. Professional Counseling
    Since impotence can sometimes result from a combination of psychological and physical factors, counseling may help reduce anxiety and overcome the condition. This therapy is often used in combination with other treatments as directed by a physician.
  3. Injection Therapy
    Injection therapy produces erections within 5 to 20 minutes by relaxing the penile muscle tissue and allowing blood to flow into the shaft of the penis naturally. These erections generally last 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Vacuum Devices
    This treatment involves the use of an external vacuum device and one or more tension rings. The vacuum chamber is placed over the un-erect penis, and a pump is used to produce an erection. Once an adequate erection is produced, a tension band is slipped around the base of the penis to maintain the erection.
  5. Penile Prostheses
    This treatment involves the surgical placement of a stationary or moveable device into the two sides of the penis, allowing erections as often as desired. These implants come in three forms, self-contained inflatable, self-contained mechanical, and semi-rigid rods. This treatment is not recommended until other methods have been tried first.
  6. Surgical Treatment
    This treatment is usually reserved for a small percentage of patients. The goal is to correct blood flow to the penis so that erections will occur naturally.

Notice: Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.