Other causes of impotence

Impotence is caused by either physical or psychological factors although in many cases, both of these are involved. These have the effect of reducing the sex drive and the ability to have an erection.

But impotence can be caused by other reasons.

What are these other reasons?

These include:

  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Excessive exercise, e.g. cycling
  • Recreational drugs, e.g. cocaine
  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Abdominal surgery, e.g. prostate surgery
  • Environmental agents, e.g. pesticides
  • Other issues


Smoking causes a wide range of health problems which includes erectile dysfunction. The reason for this is that smoking causes the arteries to the penis to narrow and weaken. This constricts the blood flow through to the penis.

Plus it also impairs the ability of the valve mechanism (corpora cavernosa) in the penis to stop blood from flowing out. This reduces pressure in the penis and affects the ability to get an erection.

This problem increases as time goes by: if you are a smoker then you will find that your arteries will narrow after a period of time which will cause impotence and a few other health conditions as well.

Be aware that impotence can be a warning of other health problems such as arteriosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) which can lead to heart disease. Basically, smoking is damaging other parts of your body.

According to the British Medical Association (BMA), around 120,000 men have impotence (erectile dysfunction) as a result of smoking.

(Source: Action on Smoking and Health)

Excess alcohol consumption

Drinking to excess causes many problems not least erectile dysfunction. Too much alcohol can cause a condition known as ‘ brewer’s droop’in which the man is unable to achieve and/or sustain an erection.

It can also reduce testosterone levels which has the effect of reducing the libido.

Moderate amounts of alcohol are fine but excess amounts or binge drinking will affect your sexual performance in the long term. This can also damage the nerves in the penis which are responsible for causing an erection. This is known as ‘ alcohol impotence’.

It is a case of getting a balance between moderate alcohol consumption which helps to increase libido and excess alcohol intake which causes it to drop.

Another problem with excess alcohol consumption is that it is often accompanied by smoking, poor diet and a lack of exercise. These are also triggers for impotence.

Excessive exercise

Exercise is good for you but doing too much can cause problems which include problems with sexual potency.

It is a strange paradox: exercise helps to reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction but there is a fine line between the right amount and doing too much. Excessive amounts of exercise, e.g. weightlifting can lead to impotence.

But one particular form of exercise which can cause impotence is cycling. Cycling is a popular sporting activity for men which is great for health and fitness, but, too much can lead to specifically ‘ male’ problems.

Cycling for more than three to four hours each week can cause damage to the erectile nerves within the penis. This occurs when the genitals are in constant contact with the saddle over a long period of time which causes numbness and erectile problems.

The nerves within the penis become compressed as a result of this pressure which prevents normal blood flow. This then affects the man’s ability to achieve an erection.

This is more of a problem for long distance cyclists, e.g. road riders rather than mountain bikers.

If you are a keen cyclist then consider the amount of training you do each week, especially if you enjoy doing long distances. Take frequent breaks if possible and check the set up of your bike.

Recreational drugs

This includes drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, heroin and ecstasy. Many people take these drugs for the increased energy, ‘ buzz’and overall feeling of euphoria but they can have serious, long term consequences.

There is a high risk of damage both physically and mentally from taking recreational drugs which includes impotence and infertility.


Tiredness can affect your ability to get or sustain an erection. This may sound strange but being tired can reduce sexual desire and libido to the extent that it is impossible to get or maintain an erection.

A long, tiring day at work, financial worries, stress, relationship problems, these are all external factors which cause tiredness and reduce sexual potency.

Tiredness or fatigue drains an individual of their physical and mental energy which often means that they lose their interest in sex or find it difficult to become sexually aroused. This then leads to impotence.

Some tiredness is normal but if it persists then speak to your GP. Fatigue can be the sign of an underlying condition which will require further investigation.

Abdominal surgery

Some forms of surgery such as prostate surgery can damage the nerves which supply blood to the penis. This results in a variety of problems which includes impotence.

So what types of abdominal surgery may cause impotence?

These include:

  • Prostate surgery
  • Hernia surgery, e.g. mesh repair
  • Colostomy
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery

Impotence is one of several side effects although it is fairly uncommon.

Environmental agents

External agents such as solvents or pesticides can cause erectile dysfunction. If you work in an environment where you are exposed to oestrogen based chemicals or handle toxic substances then you may be at increased risk of impotence or other sexual problems.

It has been claimed that exposure to certain types of chemicals may cause a low sperm count and infertility.

Other issues

These can include socio-economic factors such as redundancy, low income employment, family breakdown, social class, poor education and lack of opportunities.

If you lose your job, live in an area in which there are few opportunities or are experiencing a family breakdown; these are all stressful situations which will take a toll on your physical and psychological wellbeing. These can cause health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and impotence.

Many people on a low income find it difficult to follow a healthy lifestyle which may also be due to a lack of awareness of the importance of doing so. Financial constraints are another factor.

It may be the case that certain socio-economic groups are more likely to seek medical advice about impotence as well undertaking research in order to gain a greater understanding of it. This means that they are better placed to take control of their impotence and to obtain the right sort of treatment.

External factors such as redundancy, which many of us do not have any control over, can lead to a lack of self-esteem, frustration and depression. A man who has been made redundant can experience these feelings which can also lead to a loss of interest in sex. This loss of libido also affects his ability to get and sustain an erection.

Even those who are employed can be affected. If you are employed in a low paid, menial job or a job which is well paid but stressful and/or dangerous may find that this has a negative impact upon your health. Long hours, job insecurity and a sense of little control in your job can results in stress and fatigue which then impacts upon your sex life.

If this continues then depression may set in, especially if you live in an area in which there are few opportunities. This can affect both of you and your sex life to the extent that sex becomes perfunctory or you gradually lose interest altogether.

Unfortunately there are no quick answers to societal problems especially in the current climate but if you are experiencing problems with your love life due to these reasons then counselling may be an option.

Find out more in our treating impotence section.

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