Causes of Impotence

Erectile dysfunction is an interesting condition because while it affects men in the same way, there are actually numerous reasons why it can occur. There are multiple systems in the body that must function correctly in order for an erection to develop—including the nervous system, circulatory system, and the muscular system—and if even one of them cannot function correctly, the entire process may fail.

For many years, medical experts believed that impotence was merely an unavoidable reality of getting older, but that belief has begun to wane thanks to research indicating that there are actually a number of preventable physical and psychological problems that play an important role in the development of the condition. Here is a look at seven of the most common of these problems.

Blood Vessel Blockage

In older men, the most common cause of impotence is blood vessel blockage in the penis. However, these blockages can be spurred on by a number of different conditions, such as diabetes or plaque buildup in the arteries. If there are no conditions such as these present, the blockage could be caused by a vein that allows blood to drain too quickly from the penis.


Certain types of medication can also cause impotence. In some cases, they may interfere with a man’s testosterone levels, which can have serious effects on his entire reproductive system—from the ability to maintain an erection to his fertility. Other types of medication may also interfere with the nervous system and the signals it sends to the penis in order to initiate an erection.

The medications that most commonly cause impotence problems for men include those that treat high blood pressure, depression, allergies, or cancer. Additionally, medications that have diuretic side effects may also create erectile difficulties.

Heart Problems

Heart problems can lead to impotence, and in fact, the condition puts men at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, more than half of all men dealing with impotence have high blood pressure, but this is not the only heart-related problem that can cause the condition—things such as heart disease and high cholesterol can also create difficulties as well.

Neurological Disorders

As mentioned earlier, the nervous system is an important player in the development of an erection. Because of this, certain neurological conditions may interfere with this process. People dealing with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease typically have more difficulty in achieving an erection than others. Additionally, if a man experiences damage to his pituitary gland, which is the part of the brain that helps regulate the secretion of hormones, he may have impotence problems as well.

Physical Injury

Physical injury to the area surrounding the penis may result in nerve damage that can cause impotence. Additionally, surgeries to repair injuries to this area may also cause inadvertent damage to nerves. Men who undergo certain treatments for bladder or prostate cancer are also at risk of nerve damage that may reduce their ability to have an erection.

Psychological Issues

Sometimes, there is no physical cause for impotence—instead, it’s caused by underlying psychological issues. These will vary from man to man, but for men in relationships, emotional problems with their partner are one of the most common. Other men may feel pressured to perform well in the bedroom which can lead to “performance anxiety.” Finally, childhood sexual abuse or other trauma can also cause impotence, although not all victims may experience these problems.


Tobacco use, drug use, and excessive alcohol consumption can all cause impotence because of the damage these activities do to the blood vessels. Additionally, smokers who also have heart problems dramatically increase their risk for erectile dysfunction.