FAQs for Women About Erectile Dysfunction


Jennifer Larson

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You’ve probably seen the erectile dysfunction (ED) medication commercials more times than you can count—the one with the giggling middle-aged couple lounging in two bathtubs or the one featuring a pair of glowing empty-nesters slow-dancing around their impeccably-decorated house.

They seem to know all about ED, and they’re not worried about it anymore. But how much do you know about erectile dysfunction, other than what you’ve heard in those ubiquitous commercials?

Check out these frequently asked questions for more info.

1. What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction occurs when a man can’t achieve or sustain an erection in order to have sex. While any man can experience a random episode, when it becomes a regular problem, that’s when the term “erectile dysfunction” actually becomes appropriate.

2. Is it my fault that my partner has developed ED?

No, it’s not your fault. The American Urological Association Foundation notes that a physical cause is the culprit for most cases of ED. However, stress, anxiety, and self-consciousness about the problem can contribute to the problem. And a man struggling with ED may also experience reduced sexual desire as a result. If your partner does develop ED, encourage him to seek out a physician.

3. What else can cause it?

Medical, physical, or psychological factors—or some combination thereof—can play a role. For example, conditions like cardiovascular disease that reduce blood flow to the penis can cause ED, as can diabetes. Another medical condition that can cause ED is called venous leak, which occurs when the penis can’t store the blood that flows into it during an erection.

4. Could medications be causing the problem?

Certain medications and drugs, including alcohol, can also be contributing factors to ED. The culprits can include some high blood pressure medications or drugs used to treat depression. If your partner is experiencing ED as a side effect of a particular medication, it might be worth asking about trying a different one.

5. Can medication help the problem?

The clear message from those bathtub commercials: they’re not letting erectile dysfunction ruin their relationships because they’ve found the perfect drug to fix the problem. You’ve probably heard of the most commonly prescribed ED drugs, which include sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil. These medications help a lot of men and tend to have only mild side effects. But they aren’t suitable for every single person who is experiencing ED. For example, men taking any other medications that contain nitrates need to avoid this particular category of drugs for fear of dangerously low blood pressure. And for the same reason, men taking alpha-blocker medications might want to consult their physicians before trying them.  Additionally, the American Urological Association’s AUA Foundation warns that they might not be as effective for men experiencing ED after pelvic surgery.

6. What other treatments are available?

You probably won’t see any commercials for vacuum erection devices, intraurethral therapy, self-injection therapy or penile implants, but these options do exist for men with ED who don’t experience any success with oral medications or can’t take them. Occasionally, surgery can help certain men by fixing certain abnormalities with blood vessels in the penis or pelvis. 

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jul 14, 2017

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Medical References

  1. Erectile Dysfunction. Fact Sheet. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/erectile-dysfunction.html
  2. Erectile Dysfunction. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/erectile-dysfunction/basics/definition/con-20034244
  3. Erectile dysfunction and diabetes: Take control today. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/erectile-dysfunction/in-depth/erectile-dysfunction/art...
  4. Selvin E, et al. Prevalence and Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction in the US. The American Journal of Medicine. Volume 120, Issue 2, February 2007, Pages 151–157. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002934306006899
  5. Johannes CB, et al. Incidence of Erectile Dysfunction in Men 40 to 69 Years Old: Longitudinal Results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. The Journal of Urology. 2000;163(2):460–463. 
  6. The Management of Erectile Dysfunction (2005), Guidelines. American Urological Association. https://www.auanet.org/education/guidelines/erectile-dysfunction.cfm

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