There are four main types of health conditions that can cause physical problems resulting in erectile dysfunction. These are:
- conditions affecting the flow of blood to your penis – vasculogenic
- conditions affecting your nervous system, which is made up of your brain, nerves and spinal cord – neurogenic
- conditions affecting your hormone levels – hormonal
- conditions affecting the physical structure of your penis – anatomical
Injuries and surgery
Penis injuries or surgical treatment of the penis, pelvis or surrounding areas can sometimes lead to erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is also thought to occur in up to 15-25% of people who experience a severe head injury.
Examples of vasculogenic conditions that cause erectile dysfunction include:
- cardiovascular disease – a disease of the heart or blood vessels, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- diabetes – a condition caused by high blood sugar levels. This can affect both the blood supply and the nerve endings in your penis, so it is also a neurogenic condition
Erectile dysfunction is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease. For this reason, it may be one of the first causes your GP considers when making a diagnosis and planning your treatment.
Examples of neurogenic conditions that cause erectile dysfunction include:
- multiple sclerosis – a condition that affects the body’s actions, such as movement and balance
- Parkinson’s disease – a condition that affects the way that the brain coordinates body movements, including walking, talking and writing
- a spinal injury or disorder
- a stroke – a serious condition that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted
Examples of hormonal conditions that cause erectile dysfunction include:
- hypogonadism – a condition that affects the production of the male sex hormone, testosterone, causing abnormally low levels
- an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) – where too much thyroid hormone is produced
- an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) – where not enough thyroid hormone is produced
- Cushing’s syndrome – a condition that affects the production of a hormone called cortisol
Peyronie’s disease, which affects the tissue of the penis, is an example of an anatomical condition that can cause erectile dysfunction