10 Myths and Facts About Erectile Dysfunction

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to get or keep an erection, is a common problem. Most men experience difficulty at some time in their life but for some the problem is ongoing, causing problems in self-esteem and in their relationships. Previously, this was thought to be an emotional problem but recent medical research has shown that in many cases, it is caused by a physical problem. Because this is a difficult topic for men to talk about, there are many misconceptions that still exist. The following dispels some of the myths surrounding ED.

Myth: ED is a normal part of the aging process.

Fact: While it is true that ED is more common as men age, it does not need to be part of the normal aging process. ED is a medical problem and can impact a man's overall feeling of well-being, no matter what his age. ED should and can be treated whether it occurs at 20 or at 90.

Myth: The impact of ED is only felt by men.

Fact: ED is felt by both the man and his partner. ED can create feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and lead to depression. Intimate relationships often suffer, especially if the situation is not addressed; the partner can feel unloved or feel it is somehow her fault, creating relationships problems. When self-esteem is impacted, it can cause difficulties in other relationships as well, with problems at work, with extended family and friends.

Myth: Wearing tight underwear causes ED.

Fact: Tight underwear has been associated with infertility because it can increase the temperature of the testicles but there is no medical research which shows an association between tight underwear and ED.

Myth: ED only occurs because of relationship problems.

Fact: While relationship problems certainly contribute to a man's desire for sex, most cases of ED are physiological, not psychological. On the other hand, untreated ED can further contribute to difficulties within a relationship.

Myth: ED only occurs in older men.

Fact: ED is more common in older men, however, it can occur in men of any age. Certain medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure or heart disease may increase a man's risk of developing ED. Smoking has also been found to be a risk factor and some medications can cause ED.

Myth: Oral medications, such as Viagra, are the only treatment for ED.

Fact: Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and quitting smoking, are normally recommended before oral medications. Identifying and treating any underlying physical conditions should be the first line of treatment. Oral medications help many men but do not work for everyone.

Myth: Men with ED have no sexual desire.

Fact: Sexual desire is hormonal and this is not normally impacted by ED. Some may fear sex or avoid having sexual intercourse because they are afraid they will not be able to have an erection, however, ED does not directly impact sexual desire.

Myth: Having trouble having an erection always signals ED.

Fact: Men, despite popular belief, can't always have sex. Fatigue, personal problems, anxiety, worry, and other problems can affect a man's ability to have sex. In addition, just as with women, some days men are just "not in the mood." Believing that men can have sex at any time adds to the pressure of feeling the need to perform.

Myth: ED is not dangerous, it is just a personal problem.

Fact: While it is true that in many cases, ED itself is not dangerous, it can signal underlying medical conditions which may be dangerous, such as heart disease or high blood pressure, if not treated. Seeing your doctor when you experience ED may help in identifying and treating possible serious medical conditions.

Myth: I can take an herbal supplement to treat ED and don't need to see a doctor.

Fact: At the present time, there is no scientific research that backs up using herbal supplements to treat ED. In addition, herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA and can be dangerous for other medical conditions, may interfere with your current medication and may cause unwanted side effects. You should always speak with your doctor before taking herbal supplements.

Embarrassment about talking with your doctor about ED prevent many men from seeking treatment. However, ED is, in most cases, treatable. If you experience a problem with erections more than 25 percent of the time, you should speak with your doctor.

For more information:

Women and Sexual Dysfunction and Aging

Men's Sexual Health

Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)

10 Tips for Men's Sexual Health

Tips for Seniors: Enjoying a Healthy Sex Life

What Your Doctor Needs to Know About Your Sex Life

Is My Sex Life Normal?


"Erectile Dysfunction," Updated 2010, Dec, Staff Writer, FamilyDoctor.org

"Erectile Dysfunction Fact Sheet," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Erection Problems," Updated 2011, Sept 19, Updated by Louis S. Liou, M.D. MedLinePlus

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.