The Independent Pharmacy

Do You Have Erectile Dysfunction? Known Symptoms Explained

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 18 Dec 2023

Dealing with erectile dysfunction can be a deeply personal and sensitive experience, raising concerns about health, self-image, and how to discuss this issue with a partner. We understand how challenging this can be. Yet it’s an extraordinarily common dilemma - half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 struggle with ED to some degree. The good news is recognising symptoms early and seeking help can get your sex life back on track.

It's completely normal to feel unsure when distinguishing between occasional bedroom challenges and ongoing symptoms of erectile dysfunction. You're not alone in this. Essentially, if you regularly have trouble getting or maintaining an erection for satisfying intercourse, can’t reliably achieve one when you want to be intimate, and this goes on for months, it likely constitutes ED.

The specific signs vary but often include:

  • difficulty with erections not firm or sustained enough for sex
  • reduced spur-of-the-moment desire
  • changes in your normal sexual response

Paying attention to these cues prompts you to get evaluated to pinpoint causes and solutions. Though visiting the doctor may initially feel daunting, they can discreetly get to the bottom of any hurdles to sensual functioning.

With compassionate, expert assistance, conditions causing ED are highly treatable through various medications like Viagra Connect and lifestyle adjustments tailored to you. Most men see substantial revival in their sexuality and relationships with proper help.

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Symptoms of erectile dysfunction

The definition of erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve and maintain an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse (or in response to sexual stimulation).

This can present itself in a few different ways, but these are the key symptoms of erectile dysfunction that you need to know.

You may have ED if:

  • You have trouble getting an erection
  • You have erections that aren’t firm enough to have sex
  • You are able to get an erection sometimes, but not every time you want to have sex (or take part in sexual activities)
  • You have trouble keeping an erection
  • You find that your erections do not last long enough for sex
  • You are unable to get an erection at any time

Primary Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms

Difficulty in Getting an Erection: Common Challenges

The most apparent erectile dysfunction symptom is difficulty in getting an erection during sexual activity. You may experience trouble getting an erection from time to time or more regularly. These experiences vary greatly – some men might occasionally find it difficult to achieve a firm erection, while others might face more persistent challenges. Remember, every experience is unique and valid.

Health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or clogged arteries can damage nerves or blood vessels, making it difficult to get an erection. Psychological issues like stress, anxiety and depression can also contribute. Medications, alcohol, recreational drugs and fatigue can exacerbate erectile troubles.

Problems with Keeping an Erection: Why It Matters

In addition to difficulty getting an erection, erectile dysfunction also often involves problems with maintaining an erection during sexual intercourse. You may be able to get an erection but then lose it partway through sex. Just like getting an erection, keeping it relies heavily on healthy blood flow as arousal sends blood rushing to the penis.

Struggling to maintain an erection can feel disheartening and may affect your sex life and relationships. We recognise the emotional and relational impact this can have. It can also cause mental strain and low self-esteem over time. Identifying this symptom early and exploring medical assistance can make a real difference. Treatments exist to help strengthen erectile function.

Other Key Signs to Watch Out For

Losing Interest in Sex: What It Means

On top of the concrete physical symptoms of erectile dysfunction, changes in sexual desire can also indicate ED. You may start experiencing a lower sex drive and lose motivation to initiate or engage in sexual activities. This tends to develop after encountering multiple frustrating episodes of difficulty getting or maintaining an erection.

Loss of libido often goes hand-in-hand with erectile dysfunction for psychological reasons. The inability to perform sexually as desired can cause embarrassment, anxiety and depression, which suppresses sexual urges. However, decreasing desire can also result from medical factors like hormone imbalances, high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol and more that interfere with normal sexual response.

Irregular Erections: What They Tell You

Fluctuations in erectile rigidity and duration can also signal emerging dysfunction. For example, you may have an erection during foreplay, but then it disappears quicker than normal when attempting penetration. Or, your erections may not be as hard as they need to be for comfortable intercourse.

Noticing the strength and persistence of your erections is important. Even occasional issues can build into a pattern of dysfunction over time as blood vessels and tissues weaken. Tracking your symptoms helps identify changes for early medical assistance. Treatments like erectile dysfunction drugs help enhance blood flow for improved erections.

How Do I Know If I Have Erectile Dysfunction?

Noticing Changes: What to Look For

Picking up on the early red flags of erectile dysfunction gives you the best shot at getting brewing issues under control before full-blown dysfunction sets in. Try making a routine of tuning into signals from your body like:

  • Less frequent erections popping up
  • Feebler erection strength when aroused
  • Not maintaining erections during sex
  • Fewer nocturnal erections when sleeping

Regularly checking in helps you spot subtle changes in erectile function before they escalate. Intermittent erectile challenges early on can snowball over time if not medically assessed to identify potential underlying causes like vascular disorders, neurological diseases, diabetes, or side effects of medications.

The earlier you reach out to a men’s health specialist for evaluation, the sooner tailored treatment plans can be enacted to resolve factors interfering with healthy erectile capacity related to emotions, relationships, or physical conditions affecting blood flow. Getting in front of dysfunction preserves more options to regain satisfying sexual intimacy.

How Symptoms Change Over Time

Without treatment, symptoms of erectile dysfunction usually amplify over time. Nerves, blood vessels and tissues involved in generating erections gradually weaken when repeatedly unable to achieve or maintain firm erections. Performance anxiety and embarrassment can also worsen without support.

Starting with minor symptoms, erectile function can steadily deteriorate until sexual intercourse becomes difficult or impossible. Seeking help at the first sign of changes is key - options like erectile dysfunction medications and devices can prevent progression when addressed early on. Don't wait until the dysfunction is severe.

Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms at Different Ages

Does Age Affect Symptoms?

Erectile dysfunction can occur at any age, but manifestations may differ across age groups. For example, young men more often retain nighttime erections, indicating a psychological basis, while older men more frequently lack nocturnal erections, suggesting a physical cause.

In young men, psychological factors like performance anxiety, stress, and depression play a larger role. Relationship problems or work stress commonly interfere with sexual function. For men in their middle ages or older, erection problems are often due to medical conditions like heart-related diseases, diabetes, nerve issues, or side effects from certain medicines.

Busting Myths: It's Not Just an Older Man's Issue

Despite higher incidence in older demographics, erectile dysfunction is not an inevitable consequence of ageing that only affects senior males. Up to 25% of men under 40 have experienced some degree of ED. Assumptions that ED is a natural part of getting older or an issue restricted to the elderly can deter young men from seeking assistance.

In reality, erectile dysfunction in young males often indicates an underlying medical disorder or psychological issue warranting assessment. Breaking stereotypes about age is vital for early recognition and treatment of ED. Help is available regardless of age – oral medications and other options offer solutions.

Nighttime Erections and What They Mean

Night Erections: A Useful Indicator

Checking if you still have erections during sleep can help figure out if your ED is due to emotional reasons or physical health problems. Typically, if you are experiencing erections during sleep but are having issues with erections while awake, emotional factors are more likely at play. Lack of nighttime erections usually points to a physical health problem interfering with natural erectile capacity.

Healthy men normally get 3-5 erections per night during REM sleep stages as a part of the body's natural maintenance of penile health. Noticing changes in your normal nocturnal erection patterns can provide insight into developing dysfunction. Keeping track of nighttime symptoms helps tailor appropriate treatment.

Emotional vs. Physical Causes: Understanding the Difference

Emotional contributors to erectile dysfunction include stress, performance anxiety, depression, psychological trauma and relationship conflicts. Physical factors encompass nerve damage, atherosclerosis (when your arteries become narrowed and your blood can't flow through them), high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, injury and side effects of substances or medications.

Distinguishing between mental health and physiological roots guides suitable treatment approaches. Psychotherapy assists with emotional obstacles, while oral drugs, injections and devices help override physical impediments to enable erections. Identifying the source is key to establishing effective management plans.

How Lifestyle Affects Erectile Dysfunction

Making Things Worse: Habits to Watch Out For

Certain lifestyle choices and habits can aggravate erectile dysfunction by introducing or worsening underlying health conditions like cardiovascular disease (heart disease when the blood supply of your heart is interrupted or even blocked), hypertension (high blood pressure), and diabetes that restrict blood flow. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, recreational drug use, lack of physical activity and unhealthy diets provoke erectile dysfunction symptoms.

For example, tobacco use and obesity damage blood vessels essential for erections. Alcohol and illicit drugs interfere with sexual response mediated by the central nervous system. Inactivity and poor nutrition promote disorders like obesity, atherosclerosis, and type 2 diabetes that disrupt erectile capacity by narrowing blood vessels.

Making Positive Changes: Simple Lifestyle Tweaks

While entrenched lifestyle habits can be challenging to overhaul, small adjustments better support sexual functioning and general well-being:

  • Increasing exercise to 30 minutes daily, even going for regular walks
  • Reducing alcohol intake to moderate levels
  • Eating more fresh fruits/vegetables and less processed foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats
  • Working on sleep deficits and stress management techniques like meditation
  • Staying socially and mentally active

Proactively optimising cardiovascular health promotes the vitality of blood vessels and erectile potential by improving blood flow. Supporting overall wellness counteracts common physical and emotional ED triggers.

Seeking Help: When and How

Knowing When to Get Help

We understand that feeling embarrassed or uncertain about your symptoms is natural, but reaching out for help is a brave and important step towards your well-being. Consult your doctor or a urologist if you experience persistent erection difficulties for 3 months or more.

Getting evaluated promptly enables the identification of any underlying conditions contributing to ED. Catching and treating related health issues early maximises outcomes. Progress can be monitored, and adjustments can be made to identify the optimal management plan for your needs.

Talking to Your Doctor: How to Prepare

Preparing for your appointment facilitates an effective discussion:

  • Make notes about the pattern of your erectile dysfunction symptoms
  • List any new medications and your full medical history
  • Include lifestyle factors like diet, exercise levels and sleep patterns
  • Outline relationship status and recent life changes
  • Formulate specific questions you want to ask

Sharing details about your experiences helps direct appropriate testing and specialised referrals if warranted. Being open with concerns enables a candid conversation around the treatment of erectile dysfunction - various oral medications like Viagra (Sildenafil), Tadalafil (Cialis) or Vardenafil (Levitra), mechanical devices, therapy for erectile dysfunction, and holistic therapies offer solutions.

Take the Next Step with The Independent Pharmacy

If you're identifying with the symptoms described here, please know there's hope. A range of medical treatments and lifestyle changes can make a significant difference, and we're here to guide you through them. Consider starting your journey back to sexual wellness by taking advantage of the discreet, caring and convenient services of The Independent Pharmacy.

Our process makes getting expert assistance for erectile dysfunction easy. First, access our user-friendly website to complete a free online assessment. This confidential questionnaire helps their experienced clinical team understand your health profile and symptoms. Next, a member of our pharmacy team reaches out with science-based, effective treatment recommendations tailored to your situation.

With The Independent Pharmacy's help, you gain control of erectile dysfunction through customised education, medicine adjustment and progress tracking. Our compassionate experts offer advice for tackling issues like performance anxiety and relationship tension worsening ED.

Take the first step towards better health today.


Do I have ED or am I just stressed?

Occasional erectile difficulties from everyday stress that resolve quickly are normal. Consistent inability to attain/maintain normal erections reaching the level of erectile dysfunction follows a chronic pattern warranting medical attention to check for underlying causes like cardiovascular disease. Consult a doctor for evaluation if problems persist over months.

How does erectile dysfunction feel?

Erectile dysfunction involves frustration from the inability to achieve erections satisfactory for sex despite sufficient sexual stimulation and desire. ED is not itself painful physically but often causes substantial emotional distress, anxiety and interpersonal strain over time, leading to reduced quality of life.

How do you deal with erectile dysfunction?

See a urologist or men’s health specialist for customised treatment plans, which may combine medications like PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra (Sildenafil), Levitra (Vardenafil), Cialis (Tadalafil), medical devices such as vacuum erection devices, stress reduction, relationship counselling and lifestyle changes around diet, exercise and sleep habits. Underlying medical issues contributing to ED are also addressed.

What age does ED usually start?

Although erectile dysfunction can begin at any age, the likelihood tends to increase over age 40. Up to a quarter of men under 40 also have ED, indicating it is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. In younger men, ED is often caused by psychological factors like stress or anxiety. In older men, it's more likely due to physical health issues like heart disease.

Does low testosterone cause ED?

Low testosterone levels alone do not directly cause erectile dysfunction but can be one contributing factor by dampening sexual desire that helps trigger erections. However, erection acquisition relies on a complex interplay of neural, vascular, hormonal and psychological systems. ED often involves multiple influences, including low levels of testosterone.


Erectile dysfunction - Illnesses & conditions | NHS inform

Why can I not get and keep an erection? - NHS (

Low sex drive (loss of libido) - NHS (

Types of talking therapy - NHS (

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