Erectile dysfunction (previously called impotence) is the inability to get or maintain an erection that is sufficient to ensure satisfactory sex/penetrative intercourse for both partners. This problem can cause significant distress for couples.
Fortunately more and more men of all ages are seeking help, and treatment has advanced rapidly. The enormous demand for “anti-impotence” drugs suggests that erection problems may be more common than was previously thought. Erectile dysfunction should be distinguished from other male sexual functioning difficulties, sometimes erroneously referred to as impotence, such as premature ejaculation, male orgasmic disorder (delay or absence of orgasm) and hypoactive sexual desire disorder (lack of or diminished sexual interest or desire).
Men with erectile dysfunction may or may not suffer from these other problems.
Erectile dysfunction can occur at any age. Occasional episodes are considered normal.
Reviewed by Dr Dave Bowden MBBCh (Wits), FCS (SA) Urol. Specialist Urologist in private practice, Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, Cape Town.