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Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence)

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A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop erectile dysfunction with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing erectile dysfunction. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors include:

The incidence of erectile dysfunction rises with age, with about 5% at age 40, to 15%-25% at age 65 and older.

Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction, including:

Trauma, whether through an accident or surgery, can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction. Trauma includes:

  • Vascular surgery
  • Urologic surgery, such as prostate surgery
  • Pelvic surgeries (particularly for prostate cancer)
  • Spinal cord injury

Certain behaviors can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction, including:

  • Alcohol use
  • Illegal drug use (such as heroin, marijuana)
  • Anabolic steroid use
  • Heavy smoking

Certain medications can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction, including:

  • Antihypertensives
  • Antihistamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Tranquilizers
  • Antipsychotics
  • Histamine blockers
  • Nicotine

If you suspect a medication may be affecting your sexual functioning, talk with your doctor. Do not stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor first.

Revision Information

  • Erectile dysfunction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated July 25, 2012. Accessed September 14, 2012.

  • Erectile dysfunction. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/ED/index.aspx. Updated March 28, 2012. Accessed September 14, 2012.

  • Erectile Dysfunction. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/content/moreinfo/ed-factsheet.pdf. Updated 2009. Accessed September 14, 2012.

  • Guay AT, Spark RF, et al. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists medical guidelines for clinical practice for the evaluation and treatment of male sexual dysfunction: a couple’s problem. 2003 update. Endocr Pract. 2003;9:77-95.

  • Sivalingam S, Hashim H, et al. An overview of the diagnosis and treatment of erectile dysfunction. Drugs. 2006;66:2339-2355.

  • Webber R. Erectile dysfunction. Clinical Evidence. 2005;13:1120-1127.