What is impotence?

Impotence is defined as the inability to achieve or sustain an erection for successful sexual intercourse.

Another name for impotence is erectile dysfunction.

Some men find that they are unable to get an erection at all; others find that they get an erection but it is not firm enough for penetration; and then there are other men who manage penetration for a short period of time but then lose it.

Do any of these seem familiar to you?

How common is impotence?

It is a very common sexual problem which affects more than 2 million men in the UK. Half of all men aged 40 to 70 will experience impotence at least once in their lives. However, many men in their seventies are still sexually potent and active.

But unfortunately, the older you are the more likely you are to develop impotence.

Why is this?

There are several reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) which restricts blood flow through those arteries. This along with high blood pressure is a major cause of impotence as well as many other health problems.

The arteries naturally harden and narrow over time which is why this disease in more common in middle age. It is usually a result of several lifestyle factors, e.g. diet, smoking, lack of exercise etc.

These and other causes of impotence are discussed further in the next section.

Some men experience a single or several episodes of erectile dysfunction which disappear without the need for treatment. But persistent cases of erectile dysfunction are usually a result of an underlying medical condition, e.g. diabetes. This will require further investigation followed by treatment for the underlying condition.

Is impotence the same as ejaculatory problems?

Many people become confused between erectile dysfunction and problems with ejaculation, such as delayed ejaculation or premature ejaculation.

Here are three clear definitions in order to prevent further confusion:

  • Erectile dysfunction (impotence): the failure to get or sustain an erection. This does not have any bearing on the ejaculatory process which occurs as per normal.
  • Delayed ejaculation: also known as ‘ retarded ejaculation’. This is an inability to climax or ejaculate inside the woman’s vagina during sexual intercourse.
  • Premature ejaculation: this is where the man ejaculates before he penetrates the vagina or too quickly for there to be mutual satisfaction.

Erectile dysfunction or impotence is NOT the same as the other two conditions.

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