- Sexual Health
- October 22, 2016
What are the Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence)?
For millions of men, the development of erectile dysfunction symptoms is a slow process. The onset and progression of erectile dysfunction symptoms may continue for months, or years, without causing true concern. That is, until erectile dysfunction symptoms move from an occasional dip in erection strength to a noticeable lack of desire or inability to sustain an erection throughout a sexual encounter. Uncovering the symptoms of ED is the first step to understand its root cause, and subsequent treatment.
Erectile dysfunction symptoms greatly vary from one man to another. Not only do its symptoms vary, but also the prevalence and severity of erectile dysfunction symptoms range based on the unique physical or emotional state of the sufferer. Because of the wide variation in erectile dysfunction symptoms, the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) was created. This 15-point questionnaire is designed to identify the functionality of five male sexual domains: sexual desire, erectile function, orgasmic function, overall satisfaction and intercourse satisfaction. Utilized in research and clinical facilities, the IIEF provides men objective insight regarding their sexual vitality. However, before answering these questions, men must first gauge if their drop in sexual performance was a fluke or a clinical erectile dysfunction symptom.
Men who experience a gradual progression of erectile dysfunction symptoms may not notice a significant drop in sexual performance until erectile dysfunction symptoms result in an uncomfortable or embarrassing situation. One of the most common erectile dysfunction symptoms is variations in erection strength based upon sexual activity. For example, being able to achieve an erection and orgasm through masturbation, but not through intercourse or oral stimulation. It’s possible erectile dysfunction symptoms are not a result of a physical ailment, but rather a result of psychological disturbances. Psychologically-based erectile dysfunction symptoms showcases itself in a variety of ways, such as:
- Varied Erection Strength – Men who are able to achieve an erection, but find erection firmness varies based upon sexual encounters, may be suffering from a psychological block. Erection quality that’s influenced by external circumstances may not be an erectile dysfunction symptom caused by a physical condition. Rather, it may be an erectile dysfunction symptom caused by psychological blocks.
- Morning Erections – A man capable of achieving strong morning erections, but difficulty achieving an erection during sexual activity, have likely fallen victim to a psychological factor, suggests David T. Derrer, M.D.
- Transient Symptoms – Throughout the course of life, a fleeting dip in male sexual function is perfectly normal. All men, regardless of health and age, experience erection problems. It’s only when these periodic bouts increases in frequency and severity that erectile dysfunction should be considered.
Psychologically-based erectile dysfunction symptoms tend to increase in severity as its prevalence grows. What started as a momentary drop in performance can swiftly grow into a serious problem due to stress or anxiety. Unlike physical causes of erectile dysfunction, psychological factors are easily diagnosed based upon when and how erectile dysfunction symptoms become visible. For example, a man who’s capable of achieving a desired erection, and subsequent orgasm, through masturbation may not be experiencing low testosterone, diabetes or cardiovascular issues, but rather a mental block.
The root cause of psychological erectile dysfunction symptoms can vary. Sometimes it’s external stress, such as work or family, or internal stress stemming from a lack of sexual self-confidence. Identifying symptoms caused by psychological factors are done by analyzing current mental symptoms. Since 10 to 20-percent of all erectile dysfunction symptoms are based upon a psychological factor, it’s imperative to consider a potential psychological connection.
- Anxiety – Men who experienced erection problems may become overly concerned. This over-analyzing tends to result in fear and anxiety, commonly referred to as performance anxiety. Therefore, unchecked sexual anxiety can lead to consistent or prolonged erectile dysfunction symptoms.
- Depression – Depression alters the mind and body. The negative effects of depression are often showcased in a lack of sexual desire or drop in erection quality. Men taking certain antidepressants may also experience erectile dysfunction symptoms, even if he is confident in his sexual abilities.
- Self-Confidence – A lack of self-esteem derived from a momentary dip in sexual function, or from other sources, commonly results in an inability to achieve or sustain powerful erections.
Physician’s offer various tests to determine if erectile dysfunction symptoms are a result of physical or mental factors. Occasionally, psychological ED is corrected through therapy or temporary doses of ED medication. While erectile dysfunction symptoms caused by psychological factors may correct itself over time, if it persists or begins to affect half of all sexual encounters, an appointment with a physician should be made.
Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms Caused by Physical Ailments
The type of erectile dysfunction symptoms are an excellent indicator of its underlining causes. Much like any other symptom, the underlining cause determines the severity of its manifestation. Unlike psychological factors, where symptoms can come on suddenly and are accompanied by notable changes in their mental outlook, a slow graduation of erectile dysfunction symptoms is often the result of an underlining physical ailment.
Erectile dysfunction symptoms caused by an underlining medical condition tend to slowly progress and develop. At first, its manifestation may be minor. As time progresses, so does the severity of erectile dysfunction symptoms. Temporary losses in erection power or sexual potency is common and should be expected in most men. However, a persistent progression of erectile dysfunction symptoms is a cause for concern.
To gain genuine insights into the severity of erectile dysfunction symptoms, men should begin documenting changes in their sexual life. Physical causes of erectile dysfunction typically present itself as three primary symptoms:
- Decrease in Erection Firmness Without a Drop in Sexual Desire – A perpetual drop in erection firmness is the most common sign of erectile dysfunction. If over a period of time, the strength and firmness of an erection diminish, its cause is likely physical. If the inability to achieve a strong erection is accompanied by unchanged sexual desire, the alteration may be attributed to potentially serious health conditions. For example, a slow decrease in erection strength without a decrease in sexual desire may be a sign of a narrowing penile artery, which is commonly caused by diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
- Complete Drop in Sexual Desire – While a lack of sexual interest may be a sign of psychological disturbances, it’s also an erectile dysfunction symptom caused by a chemical imbalance. It’s not uncommon for a drop in sexual desire be a manifestation of low testosterone levels.
- Inconsistent Erections – A common erectile dysfunction symptom is being able to achieve an erection for only a short period of time. Inconsistency in erection strength and duration is often an erectile dysfunction symptom caused by circulation issues. This erectile dysfunction symptom is commonly found in men with diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.
- Penis Shape Changes – Upon achieving an erection, does it feature a new bend or curvature? While a rare erectile dysfunction symptom, physical changes to penis shape is often a sign of Peyronie disease. Typically the result of an injury, Peyronie disease results in a severe bend or curve during an erection. This erectile dysfunction symptom leads to painful erections, and may result in a complete inability to achieve and maintain an erection. Men who’ve recently experienced a penile injury followed by painful or misshapen erections, should immediately visit a physician. Without treatment, Peyronie’s disease can result in a complete loss of penis function, or impotency.
Medication Related Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms
Erectile dysfunction symptoms are not always the result of psychological factors or an underlining medical condition. Certain medications may cause a noticeable drop in sexual desire and performance. Because symptoms associated with medication-induced ED are similar to symptoms caused by other factors, it’s often difficult to distinguish its underlining cause.
In general, erectile dysfunction symptoms caused by prescription or OTC medications appear suddenly. The most common erectile dysfunction symptoms include:
- Complete Loss of Erections – The sudden onset of erectile dysfunction symptoms after starting a new medication is a clear indicator of medicine-induced ED.
- Inability to Achieve Orgasm – Men capable of achieving an erection, but unable to reach orgasm, may be experiencing side effects associated with certain medications
- Lack of Sexual Desire – A drop in sexual desire, which may or may not be accompanied by erection difficulties, is a common symptom of medications, such as antidepressants or antipsychotics.
Erectile dysfunction symptoms derived from medications often rectify themselves after the medication dosage or brand is changed. In order to determine if erectile dysfunction symptoms are a result of medication, it’s important to take note of sexual alterations after starting a new routine. The following medications are classified by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health as causing erectile dysfunction symptoms:
- Antidepressants and Antipsychotics
- High Blood Pressure Medications
- Chemotherapy Medications, such as LHRH Agonists and Antiandrogens
Of course, erectile dysfunction symptoms are also caused by illegal drug use. Amphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine and heroin tend to cause negative sexual side effects. Symptoms that accompany narcotic-induced erectile dysfunction generally involve complete impotency or an inability to sustain erections. In some cases, narcotics produce an increase in sexual desire while prohibiting erections or ability to reach orgasm. While narcotic-driven erectile dysfunction can produce lasting effects, symptoms are typically resolved with the cessation of drug use.