Skip to main content

Understanding ED

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be equally devastating for a man and his partner.
There is hope for every man with ED to regain the confidence, control and wholeness to enjoy an active, satisfying sex life.

ED symptoms and causes

A men’s health issue

ED is a common condition that affects many men as well as their partners. ED is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection that is firm enough to have sexual intercourse.1 In other words, the penis doesn’t get hard enough to allow you to have sex. It may begin in the bedroom, but it can have a profound effect on a man, his self-esteem and his relationships.2

Signs and symptoms

You may be surprised when you experience ED for the first time. In fact, more than half of men over 40 suffer from some degree of ED.3 If you can’t get an erection more than 50% of the time, you should see a doctor. To better understand the link between your symptoms and ED, take the Sexual Health Inventory Management (SHIM) survey. The results should be shared with your doctor to help initiate a conversation about treatment options.

One condition, many causes

ED happens when blood flow to the penis is limited or nerves are damaged. The causes of ED include diabetes, heart disease, prostate cancer treatment, depression, anxiety, and the side effects of some medications.3, 4 Stress, lack of sleep, smoking, and excess drinking can also affect your performance. In other words, ED affects men of every ethnicity, age, and lifestyle.

Treatment options for ED

ED is treatable at any age. Treating the underlying cause of ED is a good place to start, such as adjusting your lifestyle, quitting smoking, and reducing your stress. Medications (Viagra™, Cialis™, Levitra™, and Stendra™) are typically the first line of therapy, but many men need more. Medications are typically followed by one or more of these treatments: vacuum devices, surgically implanted devices (penile implants), or penile injections.

In the United States alone, more than 39 million men suffer from erectile dysfunction.5

Woman holding a tablet talking to a man.

Find an ED specialist

Find erectile dysfunction specialists to discover your best solution for ED.

Helping your partner who has ED

ED is a difficult topic for couples to discuss. Talking openly can help reduce stress and improve your relationship. Acknowledge your feelings, reassure each other, and resolve to work through the problem, together.

Get informed

ED is a common medical problem. It is both physical and emotional, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Most importantly, ED is treatable. The more you know about ED, the more helpful and positive you can be.

Go to the doctor and ask questions. You can help him seek treatment, something many men are hesitant to do. If you both have adjusted to a life without sex, you may also want to explore treatment options for yourself.

Choose the moment

Try to find a non-sexual place to talk at a time when both of you are relaxed. Communication is key. Turn off the TV and cell phones. Take a deep breath and take the plunge. Focus on ways to solve ED, rather than on how it affects your relationship. If he isn’t ready to talk about it, see if he will talk to a doctor.

Be sensitive and honest

A man with ED may withdraw from sex and his partner. Be patient. You may blame yourself, thinking you are no longer desirable. You may blame him and suspect infidelity. Be honest. Talk about what you each expect. If you noticed changes during sex, bring it up to him. While difficult, talking about ED may bring you closer and strengthen your relationship.

Come back stronger

The fact that your partner is open to talking about ED is overcoming the biggest battle. But, it may not be as easy as taking a pill. Find solutions acceptable to both of you. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Many couples report an increase in desire after focusing on intimacy — kissing, hugging, stroking, etc. Talking about ED solutions may lead you both to healthier lifestyle choices.

Older woman with arms around an older man looking at each other..

Get talking

Talking about erectile dysfunction may change your life.


  1. Erectile dysfunction. NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed May 2015. 
  2. DiMeo PJ. Psychosocial and relationship issues in men with erectile dysfunction. Urol Nurs. 2006 Dec;26(6):442–6.
  3. Feldman HA, Goldstein I, Hatzichristou DG, et al. Impotence and its medical and psychosocial correlates: results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J Urol. 1994 Jan;151(1):54–61.
  4. Shabsigh R, Lue TF. A Clinician’s Guide to ED Management. New York: Haymarket Media Inc.; 2006.
  5. Data on file with Boston Scientific.