Main Differences Between Impotence and Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

impotence and erectile dysfunction causes meaning treatment

Is there a difference between impotence and erectile dysfunction (ED)?

In fact, these are interchangeable terms that refer to a man’s inability to get or maintain an erection long enough for sexual pleasure.

Regardless of what you call it, it’s a serious condition that can remove the joy out of a relationship. Its effects can go anywhere from depression all the way to infertility.

But here’s the thing: It can often be treated if you consult with a doctor.

Medical professionals from a men’s medical clinic can figure out what’s causing your ED and—more importantly—suggest a solution that’s right for you.

So take this time to understand what impotence means and what are some of the ways you can work around it to improve your sex life.

How Do You Get an Erection?

A man gets an erection when that person gets sexually stimulated through thoughts, visually, or by direct contact with the penis. When you’re aroused, blood will come rushing through blood vessels in your penis.

An increase in blood pressure is what causes a penis to become erect.

Spongy tissues in the penis will relax and trap all the blood, keeping the penis firm. It will return to its limp state after an orgasm. When a man ejaculates, nerve signals reach the penis which will, in turn, contract the blood and release it back into circulation.

What Is Impotence and Erectile Dysfunction?

As we defined earlier, impotence refers to a man’s inability to get an erection that’s hard enough to have sex. But we need to clarify a couple of things:

  1. It’s perfectly normal for a man to have problems getting an erection every once in a while.
  2. Erectile dysfunction isn’t exclusive to regular intercourse. It can also occur during oral sex or while masturbating.
  3. Having a reduced sexual desire can be linked to impotence.

Being impotent isn’t as rare as you might think. So don’t think you’re one of the rare few that suffer from it. A study reports that by 2025, the number of ED cases around the world will reach 322 million.

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

There are different factors that can cause erectile dysfunction.

Some of them could be triggered by psychological issues while other reasons have more to do with your overall physical well-being.

Let’s look at some of the common causes of erectile dysfunction.

Physical Causes of ED

The physical causes of erectile dysfunction include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Testosterone deficiency
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal cord complications

A study showed that out of 2,489,069 men aged 18 years old and higher who were diagnosed with ED at least once,38.3% of them had at least one chronic health condition.

If you’re a smoker or a heavy drinker, then you should know that both nicotine and alcohol can affect your erections in a negative way. You should stop smoking and drinking if they’re starting to cause impotence.

There are also treatments for prostate disease that can prevent your penis from getting hard. The same can be said about radiation therapy.

Experts also say that taking illegal drugs will cause erectile dysfunction in some men.

While some cases of ED happen in younger men, it’s bound to happen to more males as they get older.

This is because some body functions begin to deteriorate as we go up in years and we begin to experience things like nerve damage. This impacts every man’s ability to get an erection and have sexual intercourse.

A study shows that age was the variable that’s most associated with ED. 40% of men are affected at age 40 and nearly 70% are affected at age 70.

Psychological Causes of ED

There are several psychological issues that can impact your ability to get an erection. One of the main reasons why someone could suffer from ED is performance anxiety.

But sometimes, the problem goes deeper than performance anxiety. Related issues include depression, fear of intimacy, or suffering from a traumatic event.

Having relationship problems with a partner can also lead to ED.

Whether the nature of your erectile dysfunction is physical, psychological, or a combination of the two, what’s important to note is that there are treatments available. All you need to do is to consult a doctor to find out what your options are.

Treatments for Impotence

treatments erectile dysfunction impotence

The treatment that your doctor will recommend to you will be the one that’s best for you.

It will need to address the specific issue that’s causing your ED.

So, while you might lean toward over-the-counter medications, for example, your doctors might prescribe another treatment since they’ll be in a better position to see what’ll work best since they’re also taking possible side effects into consideration.

Below are the most common erectile dysfunction treatments available today.

Lifestyle Changes

The first thing you should try—and what your doctor would likely recommend first—is to make lifestyle changes. If you’re a smoker, then you should stop. Same for alcohol.

If you’re on the verge or way past obesity, try weight loss programs to improve blood flow in your body. Stop taking illegal drugs. If you’re taking prescription medicine, talk to your doctor about your erectile dysfunction and ask if there’s a link.

But if you have a fairly active lifestyle and you don’t have any vices, look into the other treatments listed below.


If the issue is psychological, then you should talk with a therapist to get to the root cause. Sometimes bringing your partner along can help resolve issues that cause your impotence. It’ll also help you work together in the bedroom to ease yourself into having a better sex life.

ED Medications

Popular treatments for impotence are drugs called PDE-5 inhibitors. The most popular in the bunch is Viagra (sildenafil), but there are other options available. These include Levitra (vardenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), and Stendra (avanafil).

While ED pills are commonly used, there are serious downsides to them.

One of the main issues is the risk of heart failure. If you have a history of heart conditions, then you’ll want to consult with a doctor to confirm if you should be taking PDE-5 inhibitors or not.

Other possible side effects include hearing loss, indigestion, flushing, visual abnormalities, and headache.

Some men find it uncomfortable going to a pharmacy and buying ED medications. And since it has to be taken 30 minutes to an hour before sex, you’ll have to adjust and learn how to pre-plan your activity for the night.

Vacuum Devices

Another popular option is vacuum devices. These are mechanical instruments used to make the penis firm using a pump that forces blood to fill in the blood vessel. You’ll then insert a ring around the penis to prevent blood from leaving.

This is a good option for those that don’t like taking medications or for those that find them ineffective.

This time, the downside includes the lack of spontaneity and long-term benefits.

You’ll have to use the pump right before sex. If your partner is unfamiliar with the device, it can potentially ruin the mood. Also, you’ll have to bring the pump with you if you plan on having sex outside your home which can be awkward for some folks. Being mechanical devices, there’s also a chance that they might fail on you when you need them.

Vacuum devices come in manual and automatic varieties. The automatic versions work faster but they also tend to be more expensive.

Surgical Solutions

There are surgical treatments available. These include penile implants, devices that are inserted into the penis that makes it malleable or inflatable. This is often used if pumps or medications don’t work.

The problem with them is that they are invasive and would probably cost you a lot.

Low Testosterone Therapy

There are also more advanced erectile dysfunction treatments like low-testosterone therapy. The body loses testosterone as we get older.

The idea behind the therapy is to replace those lost testosterones to not only increase your sexual desire but to also reduce the symptoms of sexual health issues like impotence.

A study of men aged 30 and 79 showed that 24% had testosterone levels below 300 ng/dL when the normal range is between 300 and 1,000 ng/dL.

PRP Therapy

PRP therapy uses platelet-rich plasma (PRP) from your own body to repair the damaged tissue in your penis. This will result in a stronger erection with greater sensitivity while having sex. It’s a good alternative for those of you who can’t find medications that work.

How to Diagnose Impotence and Erectile Dysfunction

diagnose ED in men erectile dysfunction

Your doctor will conduct an interview to develop an initial diagnosis, and order tests as necessary.

The interview is necessary as this will give your doctor a better understanding of your medical history and the medications that you’re currently taking. It’s best to come prepared as some of the questions can get personal since they’ll involve your sexual activity.

Just remember to answer honestly since your response will dictate how the doctor will move forward.

There’s a chance that the doctor will order tests to find the cause of your erectile dysfunction. Common tests include CBC (complete blood count), lipid profile, liver and kidney function tests, urinalysis, NPT (nocturnal penile tumescence), and penile biothesiometry.

It’s very important that you understand what each test does. So don’t be afraid to ask questions if anything is unclear to you.

When the doctor receives the results, that’s when you’ll receive a diagnosis and possible treatment options.

If you’re having issues with impotence and erectile dysfunction, call the team at Priority Men’s Medical Center to schedule an appointment to have a consultation with their experienced and specially trained medical staff.

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