Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the failure to achieve erection, ejaculation, or both. It affects 10–25% of middle-aged and elderly men. ED may result from three basic mechanisms: (1) failure to initiate (psychogenic, endocrinologic, or neurogenic); (2) failure to fill (arteriogenic); or (3) failure to store adequate blood volume within the lacunar network (venoocclusive dysfunction). Diabetic, atherosclerotic, and drug-related causes account for >80% of cases of ED in older men. The most common organic cause of ED is vasculogenic; 35–75% of men with diabetes have ED due to a combination of vascular and neurologic complications. Psychogenic causes of ED include performance anxiety, depression, relationship conflict, sexual inhibition, history of sexual abuse in childhood, and fear of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. Among the antihypertensive agents, the thiazide diuretics and beta blockers have been implicated most frequently. Estrogens, GnRH agonists and antagonists, H2 antagonists, and spironolactone suppress gonadotropin production or block androgen action. Antidepressant and antipsychotic agents—particularly neuroleptics, tricyclics, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors—are associated with erectile, ejaculatory, orgasmic, and sexual desire difficulties. Recreational drugs, including ethanol, cocaine, and marijuana, also may cause ED. Any disorder that affects the sacral spinal cord or the sensory nerves or autonomic fibers innervating the penis may lead to ED.
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