Could you be at risk of developing ED?

Could you be at risk of erection issues? Do you know what causes erectile dysfunction (ED)? Or maybe you just want to know more about its causes to prevent it from happening.

Erectile dysfunction is when you cannot get an erection. Alternatively, it can also mean you can’t firm during sexual intercourse or both. This can be embarrassing and in some cases, lead to performance anxiety and relationship issues.

What causes erectile dysfunction varies in each person, and most of the time, it isn’t a sign of anything serious. Knowing the risk factors for erectile dysfunction and what causes ED is your starting point!

1) High blood pressure

High blood pressure is one of the risk factors for erectile dysfunction. Over time, high blood pressure causes damage to the lining of the blood vessels. Having high blood pressure also hardens and narrows your arteries. This is a condition called atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis limits blood flow, meaning less blood flows to the penis. For some men, less blood flow makes it tricky to get and keep an erection. Men with high blood pressure are twice as likely to develop erectile dysfunction.

Equally, high blood pressure can also impact ejaculation. Some medications for blood pressure are known to lower sex drive as a side effect.

2) Lack of sleep

Getting less than 8 hours of quality sleep leads to poorer circulation. It also leads to reduced levels of testosterone in men. Lack of sleep is known to contribute to ED. Not getting enough sleep may also cause relationship issues, too.

Testosterone is produced most of the time when you’re asleep. It’s a hormone essential for a strong libido. Having lower levels of testosterone means a man will experience decreased sexual desire and also sexual performance.

In reality, you should aim to get adequate sleep each night to prevent erectile dysfunction.

3) Obesity

Obesity adds to known health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

Being obese causes your hormones to change, leading to reduced testosterone. Obesity can also lead to low-level inflammation which affects the lining of blood vessels that are important for sexual function.

Being obese heightens your risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Losing weight is a simple way to treat ED and prevent it from happening.

4) Alcohol

Consuming alcohol can affect your brain, hormones, blood vessels and nerves. All of these parts of your body are important in the complex process of getting an erection.

Furthermore, alcohol can affect those parts of the body and can aid in the development of erectile dysfunction.

Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol over a short period of time can also cause changes in your body. The changes make it harder to get an erection.

Those changes happen in your hormone levels, in addition to your nervous and circulation systems.

An inability to get an erection can surprisingly happen after drinking any type of alcoholic drink. Try cutting back your alcohol intake to see if you notice any changes!

5) Mental health conditions

Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression can also be risk factors for developing erectile dysfunction. However, this is more common in older men.

Mental health disorders are likely to trigger imbalanced brain chemicals, with these imbalanced brain chemicals potentially leading to ED.

Not being able to perform in the bedroom can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. This can make ED worse. The cycle of depression and ED is a struggle for many men.

Additionally, some medications for depression can worsen erectile dysfunction.

If your erectile dysfunction is caused by stress, anxiety or depression, your doctor might suggest that you visit a psychologist or counsellor.

6) Type 2 diabetes

Diabetics are at a higher risk of erectile dysfunction. It happens because of high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Having high blood sugar levels for an extended period of time causes damage to the vessels and nerves supplied to your penis. This can restrict the amount of blood flowing to your sexual organs; a loss of sensation may also happen.

7) Lack of sexual experience

Men who lack sexual experience are at risk of developing ED. Sexual activity protects nerve fibres and blood vessels, in addition preventing scarring of the chambers inside the penis. The chambers fill with blood to form an erection.

8) Injuries

Any injury to the veins, arteries and nerves of the pelvis has the ability to cause sexual issues, like erectile dysfunction. Men with spinal injuries also have increased risks of developing it.

9) Smoking

Smoking is another risk factor for erectile dysfunction due to the effects of cigarette chemicals on the blood vessels in the penis. Even if your nervous system is operating properly, if the blood vessels are unhealthy due to smoking, an erection might not be physically possible.

Quitting smoking has the ability to improve blood circulation. It will then become easier for the blood to flow into the penis during sex. Smoking is one of the many preventable risk factors for erectile dysfunction.

smoking is one of the risk factors for erectile dysfunction

10) Heart conditions

Erections are dependent on blood vessel dilation. They also depend on blood flow. Any medical history of a heart condition or heart disease that impacts these functions can cause erectile dysfunction.

Having high cholesterol is bad for your heart and can cause complications in the future and lead to heart attacks.

Heart conditions can affect a person's blood flow which may contribute to erectile dysfunction. Erectile problems can also be a warning sign of an underlying heart condition. If you’re looking for ways to improve your heart health, you can read our helpful guide here!

11) Medications

There are many medications that can affect a man's sexual arousal and performance. Some medications are, therefore, risk factors for erectile dysfunction. Some of the most common medications that can lead to erectile dysfunction include:

  • Medication for mental health (e.g., Sertraline and Lorazpam)
  • Antihistamine medication (e.g., Hydroxyzine and Cimetidine)
  • High blood pressure medications and diuretics (e.g., Bethanidine, Haloperidol and Furosemide)
  • Parkinson's disease medications (e.g. Procyclidine and Biperiden)
  • Chemotherapy and hormonal medications (e.g. antiandrogens, busulfan, LHRH agonists and LHRH antagonist)
  • Painkillers (e.g. codeine and morphine)

There are other medications that have the potential to cause erectile dysfunction. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you believe that any medication you’re taking is affecting your sexual performance.

Never stop taking any medication before speaking to your healthcare provider first, as it could put you at risk.

12) Prostate problems

Prostate issues such as an enlarged prostate and prostatitis are medical conditions known to lead to erectile dysfunction.

Managing a swollen prostate can be done with medication or surgical treatment. Side effects from managing this condition may, unfortunately, result in ED.

Erectile dysfunction from prostatitis often happens from the pain related to the disorder.

Prostate cancer can also be a cause of erectile dysfunction. A growing prostate tumour can lower sexual function. This happens by causing lower urinary tract symptoms.

Prostate cancer doesn’t always have a direct impact on erectile dysfunction, but can be caused by the psychological effects of the diagnosis.

Treatments to manage these prostate issues can also lead to erectile dysfunction.

13) Drug use

Drugs that are either bought over the counter (OTC) or used recreationally can contribute to risk factors for erectile dysfunction. Using drugs changes the way your body functions. They can potentially cause a wide range of issues, like erectile dysfunction.

Drugs that can lead to erectile dysfunction include:

  • Amphetamines and cocaine - can cause the blood vessels to narrow and prevent adequate blood from reaching the penis
  • Barbiturates - can decrease interest in sexual activity
  • Nicotine - can cause lower sexual desire
  • Cannabis - can heighten sexual desire, however, prevents the muscle in your penis from relaxing to let enough blood flow in
  • Heroin - can decrease levels of testosterone and decrease interest in sexual activity


The use of steroids without a prescription is illegal. Steroids reduce a man’s capability to produce their own testosterone, andcan have short-term or long-term implications.

This depends on how frequently steroids have been used and the amount. Men will typically feel the effects once they have stopped using steroids. Damage caused by steroids can vary, however, it takes around 3-12 months for testosterone levels to return to normal after steroid use.

14) Peyronie’s disease

Peyronie’s disease is a condition which results from fibrous scar tissue developing on the penis. This causes curved and painful erections.

Men who suffer from Peyronie’s disease may have problems getting an erection or maintaining one. It’s usually reported that erectile dysfunction happens before the beginning of Peyronie’s disease.

Your doctor will be able to tell you if you have Peyronie’s disease with a physical exam. It won’t go away on its own. Early treatment gives you the best chance to improve the condition.

Painful erections typically improve within one to two years. The scar tissue, penile shortening and curvature often remain.

15) Priapism (painful erections)

Priapism (painful erections) is an uncommon condition that causes long-lasting, painful erections. A full or partial erection can continue for a long period of time. It is, however, more common in men who have sickle-cell disease or men in their 30s and older.

Immediate treatment is required to prevent tissue damage from happening. If tissue damage occurs, then this could lead to the inability to maintain or achieve an erection. Priapism can cause permanent damage to your penis if it’s not treated promptly.

We hope that you’re now aware of the risk factors for erectile dysfunction!

Some of the risk factors discussed can be preventable as well as manageable. This will help you avoid erectile dysfunction in the future.

Erectile dysfunction is not something to be ashamed of. After all, more than half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 experience some kind of erectile dysfunction in their lifetime!

If you do find yourself suffering from erectile dysfunction, you can visit your GP or a sexual health clinic.

If you’re looking for something sooner, both prescription and non-prescription erectile dysfunction treatments are available from us today! The most common ones for ED include medication such as sildenafil (Viagra) and vacuum pumps. 

Olivia Malone - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 05 June 2023
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