Published: February 8, 2024

The Facts About Occasional Erectile Dysfunction

By: Jaclyn Milose, M.D.

The first time a man’s erection fails him can be humbling. Should it be worrying if it happens a third, fourth, or sixth time? Not necessarily.

Truth is, occasional erectile dysfunction – the inability of the penis to remain firm enough for intercourse – is pretty common. An estimated 43% of men have trouble getting an erection at one time or another, often due to circumstances from anxiety to alcohol.

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t be too concerned that your ED is chronic unless it occurs more than half the time. Still, it’s natural if intermittent ED makes you apprehensive about sex, and that’s reason enough to consider performance-improving options.

But first, you should recognize the common culprits behind a flagging performance.

ED man

Health Conditions That Contribute to ED

Often, ED stems from an underlying health issue that compromises blood flow or brain signals to the penis or damages the penile tissue. Among these conditions:

  • Diabetes – High blood sugar can impair blood vessels (veins and arteries) and nerves, leading to a weak erection.
  • Kidney disease – Your kidneys filter waste from blood and regulate hormones, so a disease could affect blood vessels, nerve function, and hormone levels.
  • Heart disease – A weak erection is a key indicator of heart disease, as plaque in the arteries weakens blood flow and blood vessel function.
  • Prostate conditions – The side effects of some medications for an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer, including anti-testosterone drugs and chemotherapy, can cause ED.
  • Peyronie’s disease – This is a condition in which scar tissue builds up inside the penis, making an erection difficult and painful.
  • Low testosterone ­– Declining levels of this sexual hormone, which occurs with age but also can affect younger men, make erections more difficult.

Emotional and Psychological Factors Behind ED

Of course, you can be an Iron Man athlete and still experience ED in certain situations due to stress, performance anxiety, exhaustion, and mental health issues, including depression. Psychological factors are blamed for 10% to 20% of ED-related cases.

If you think you are among those cases, talk to your doctor about consulting a therapist.

Also, keep in mind that what you put into your body could interrupt your sexual performance. Regular alcohol consumption, smoking, and recreational drug use can hinder the ability to get an erection, regardless of desire. Hold off on these activities and see if your performance improves.

If You have Occasional ED, We Have Treatment Options

You can treat occasional ED just like other non-persistent health issues. First, consult with your doctor to determine the underlying cause and if it demands medical attention. Then, you can select an ED treatment. Among your options:

  • Oral medications – Drugs such as Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis can improve blood flow to the penis. If you take a prescription that causes ED as a side effect, ask your doctor about an alternative.
  • Non-oral drug therapies – ED medications can also be self-administered through an injection at the base of the penis or through a suppository inserted into the tip of your penis. These drugs expand blood vessels and enhance blood flow on an as-needed basis.
  • Penile pumps – These manually applied devices rely on a hand-powered vacuum function to draw blood into the penis.
  • DuoLith – With this non-invasive approach, the doctor applies low-intensity energy waves that painlessly penetrate penile tissue to improve blood flow and restore nerve function.
  • Penile Prothesis – A penile implant is usually used when there is a clear medical cause for ED and when the problem is unlikely to resolve or improve naturally with other treatments. The simplest type of prosthesis consists of a pair of bendable rods surgically implanted within the erection chambers of the penis.

Occasional ED Relief Is One Question Away

If you experience erectile dysfunction intermittently but enough to cause uncertainty, it’s probably time to talk to your doctor. ED is the most common sexual problem that men report, and those reports contribute to advancements in treatment.

Why worry when a solution is one conversation away?

Learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments we offer for ED on our dedicated web page here. To consult with one of our physicians, you can request an appointment online.

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