10 myths about erectile dysfunction

So you can’t get an erection - what are the facts?


Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a very common problem but is still largely a taboo subject amongst men who feel that if they cannot achieve an erection, they are in some way less of a man and so are not forthcoming when it comes to looking for help or talking about it.

This in itself has other more serious implications because erectile dysfunction can be an early warning system to underlying conditions which may be causing or contributing to the erectile dysfunction. Ignoring the problem can lead to the development of dangerous or even fatal conditions that could have been picked up earlier and then treated.

For this reason, we will look at the myths and facts surrounding erectile dysfunction and so enable men to speak more freely about the problems they may be having around erections.

The first fact is that erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection long enough to have satisfactory sexual intercourse.

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ED is not a major issue

ED is most definitely a major issue that makes this a myth. As mentioned above, ED can signify an underlying and more serious health condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes. In order to achieve a healthy erection, a man needs a healthy cardiovascular system with blood vessels that allow blood to flow freely as well as a healthy nervous system. Diabetes can damage nerves and blood vessels and so can easily be a cause of ED. In cardiovascular disease, the blood supply to various parts of the body can be compromised and this is true of the small vessels which supply the penis, causing ED in the early stages. In later stages, cardiovascular disease can lead to heart attack and stroke.

ED is a natural part of the aging process

It may come as a surprise to many men but ED, as you get older, is not inevitable, it will very much depend on the health and lifestyle of a person and so can again be an early warning system. Men as old as 90 years have been able to have satisfactory sexual intercourse so this is a myth.

I can get an erection so I do not have ED

This is a myth because when you have a healthy erectile function then erections are achieved but also maintained. If a person cannot maintain the erection it constitutes ED as satisfactory sex would not be possible.

The only ED treatment is Viagra

This is not true because if an underlying condition is causing the problem then using Viagra will not solve it. The condition needs to be treated and this can, as a result, solve the ED problem.

There are other options available also, they include:

  • Other PDE 5 inhibitors include tadalafil, avanafil and vardenafil which are variations of the active ingredient in Viagra, sildenafil. They are worth trying if Viagra doesn’t work for you
  • Alprostadil is another drug to treat erectile dysfunction and it can be administered by injecting directly into the penis, as a suppository into the urethra or as a cream (Vitaros)
  • Vacuum devices have been found to be successful in some cases
  • Penile implants designed to keep the penis erect
  • Counseling and psychotherapy to treat mental and emotional causes of ED

ED marks the end of a good sex life

This is definitely a myth because ED can affect most men at some time in their life and usually only lasts for a short period of time; the wide range of treatments that are available means that things are looking good when it comes to having a fulfilling sex life for a long time to come.

If you take a Viagra pill or similar you will have an erection for the whole time it is in your system

Again, this is a myth. In order to achieve an erection, whether you have taken medication or not you need to be sexually aroused. Having a prolonged erection when you have taken erectile medication is an unwanted side effect and if it lasts for more than four hours then medical attention should be sought.

Lifestyle choices can lead to ED

This is a fact and some of the lifestyle choices which can lead to ED are:

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Being obese
  • Not exercising regularly

Erectile dysfunction only happens to older men

This is definitely a myth as many young men will confirm. Whilst ED is more common as you get older, young men are not immune to it and some studies have estimated that levels in young men could be as high as 30%. Some diseases which are present in young men as well as old men such as diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure and heart disease can be contributing factors.

ED only affects men

Another myth is that ED does not affect the partner in a relationship. Not only can the intimacy be taken away but it can leave a person feeling rejected and unattractive. This can lead to low self esteem and depression. The stress that ED can cause may cause problems with relationships other than with your partners such as family and work relationships.

ED is a result of problems within a relationship

Problems within a relationship can contribute to ED if a man no longer finds their partner attractive but the majority of ED cases are physiological, not psychological. However, if the ED remains untreated it can lead to problems in a relationship as intimacy and mutual connection are lost.

Tight underwear causes ED

Tight underwear has been related to infertility because the temperature in the testicles can be increased when held tightly against the body and this is not a good environment for healthy sperm to exist in. There is no medical research that suggests a connection between tight underwear and erectile dysfunction.


The nature of ED can make men feel embarrassed and less of a man which in turn makes them less likely to communicate their concerns with other people, even their friends and GP. The fact is that there are many ways to treat erectile dysfunction and in most cases it is treatable.

For this and the other reasons we have discussed it is important that you seek help from your GP if you experience erectile dysfunction on a regular basis.

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