Is erectile dysfunction a natural part of ageing?

What causes erectile dysfunction in older males?


It is easy to assume that as a man gets older, there is an inevitability that the intimate side of his life disappears as erectile dysfunction takes hold. Very much like not being able to push the same weights in the gym that he was able to when he was in his twenties; it is just a part of the ageing process.

Whilst this may be true to some extent in that the incidence of erectile dysfunction increases with age it is treatable at any age and so there is always hope! There are many causes of erectile dysfunction that are not related to ageing such as obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol to excess and high cholesterol. There are also some positive aspects of a body that is changing; there are new and exciting aspects of intimacy to explore

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Physical causes of erectile dysfunction

As we know, there is a delicate sequence of events required for a man to achieve an erection and this balance can be disrupted by any number of conditions:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High cholesterol
  • Low testosterone
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Sleep disorders Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease

Whilst some of these conditions may be age-related or more likely to occur in older men, that is not the case for all of them and some are just as likely to result in erectile dysfunction in younger men

The point is that most of these conditions are, to some extent at least, treatable and so if they are responsible for erectile dysfunction in an older man, once treated it is likely that the erectile dysfunction will correct itself.


Some causes of erectile dysfunction not related to age or illness

There are several other causes of ED that are specifically not related to age:

  • Heavy drinking - alcohol interrupts nerve communication throughout the whole body which in turn can interfere with arousal and general coordination
  • Use of recreational drugs - drugs which are likely to cause erectile dysfunction include amphetamines., barbiturates, cocaine, marijuana, methadone and opiates 
  • Smoking - causes restricted blood flow which is likely to cause a problem when it comes to achieving an erection but in addition, it can cause serious diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease which are also likely to interfere with sexual function
  • Prescription medication - some medication that has been known to cause erectile dysfunction include antidepressants, antihistamines, hormone therapy and medication for high blood pressure
  • Anxiety - being anxious about events in your life such as work, children, finances and relationship issues can affect a person's sexual desire and so ability to perform sexually
  • Depression - there are many symptoms associated with depression such as low self-esteem, lethargy and lack of motivation that can also result in erectile dysfunction


Treatment for erectile dysfunction

Treatment for physical causes:

It very much depends on what is causing the erectile dysfunction as to which treatment would be most suitable.

While erectile dysfunction may correct itself without any intervention it may be comforting to know that much better treatment is now available should it be required.

As mentioned earlier, if erectile dysfunction is a symptom of another problem then if the root problem is treated then the symptoms (ED being one of them) will be relieved

If the erectile dysfunction is being caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels which supply the penis which may, in turn, be a result of having high blood pressure then hypertensive drugs can be used.  If the narrowing of the vessels is being caused by high cholesterol then statins can be given to lower its level

If low hormone levels, in particular testosterone, are causing the ED then treatment to increase the levels of testosterone can be given a replacement

If prescription medication is the cause of the ED then alternative medications should be investigated.  This should be done alongside your GP and medication should not be stopped without supervision

Finally, medication exists which is designed to increase the blood flow to the penis and so it enables the sufferer to achieve an erection.  There is a selection of drugs available known as PDE (phosphodiesterase) inhibitors;  this group includes sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis).  These medications are available on prescription but sildenafil is also now available over the counter although it may only be dispensed under the supervision of a pharmacist


Treatment for psychological causes

If there are specific psychological issues which are causing the ED such as anxiety or depression then it is advisable to treat these conditions in order to relieve the symptoms.  However, it is important to remember that if antidepressants are required that they in themselves can cause erectile dysfunction and so the most appropriate  treatment for depression must be considered carefully by your GP


Prevention of erectile dysfunction - at any age!

It is possible to postpone or even prevent erectile dysfunction by quite simply looking after yourself.

Stop smoking, reduce the alcohol in your diet and lose weight just to begin!

Regular exercise is vital as it will play a major part in maintaining or improving your cardiovascular health which has an important role in maintaining sexual health

Have a medical ‘MOT’ with your doctor to ensure that there are no underlying health issues that need to be addressed

Finally,  there is help at hand whatever the issue may be so look forward to a long and happy life of sexual health



  1. Erectile Dysfunction Common with Age
  2. Erectile Dysfunction and your Age:  Is it inevitable
  3. Sexual Dysfunction in the Elderly:  Age or Disease
  4. Erection Changes After 50:  The Facts

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