Erectile dysfunction or impotence is a sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis. There are various underlying causes, such as damage to the nervi erigentes which prevents or delays erection, or diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease, which simply decreases blood flow to the tissue in the penis, many of which are medically reversible.
The causes of erectile dysfunction may be psychological or physical. Psychological erectile dysfunction can often be helped by almost anything that the patient believes in; there is a very strong placebo effect. Physical damage is much more severe. One leading physical cause of ED is continual or severe damage taken to the nervi erigentes. These nerves course beside the prostate arising from the sacral plexus and can be damaged in prostatic and colorectal surgeries.
Diseases are also common causes of erectile dysfunctional; especially in men. Diseases such as cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, kidney failure, vascular disease and spinal cord injury are the source of erectile dysfunction.
Due to its embarrassing nature and the shame felt by sufferers, the subject was taboo for a long time, and is the subject of many urban legends. Folk remedies have long been advocated, with some being advertised widely since the 1930s. The introduction of perhaps the first pharmacologically effective remedy for impotence, sildenafil (trade name Viagra), in the 1990s caused a wave of public attention, propelled in part by the news-worthiness of stories about it and heavy advertising.
It is estimated that around 30 million men in the United States and 152 million men worldwide suffer from Erectile Dysfunction. However, social stigma, low health literacy and social taboos lead to under reporting which makes an accurate prevalence rate hard to determine.
The Latin term impotentia coeundi describes simple inability to insert the penis into the vagina. It is now mostly replaced by more precise terms.