What is Erectile Dysfunction?

ben bunting BA(Hons) PgCert Sport & Exercise Nutriton  Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert.


Erectile dysfunction can be described as a repeated inability to achieve or maintain an erection by a man.

Although this is not an uncommon problem among men and can happen from time to time, it is diagnosed as a dysfunction after occurring more than 25% of the time.

This can be a sign of underlying problems and a signal to get treatment for whatever issue is causing this problem.  

In this article we shall cover the following areas:

  • What's an erection?
  • Symptoms of erectile dysfunction
  • Can you conceive with erectile dysfunction?
  • Conclusion?

What is an erection?

what is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction can occur at the time of erection process. Erection occurs after and increased blood flow to the genital area. [1]

The muscles relax and cause the arteries to fill up with blood along with the two chambers inside penis.

Any problem hindering in this whole process can be the cause of erectile dysfunction. These problems can be physical or emotional or due to alcohol. [2]

What are the causes of erectile dysfunction?

Following factors have been observed as being common causes of erectile dysfunction:

Although men of all ages can be its target, the risk of impotency does increase as men get older, and peaks for men aged 70+. [3]

Usually, it is the result of underlying health problems and needs medical attention.

The cause can be a single issue or multiple problems that is why you need to consult a doctor so that you can work together to rule out any underlying medical condition.

Symptoms of erectile dysfunction

Most commonly, the symptoms encountered are trouble getting an erection and maintaining it. Other symptoms that might point towards this issue are:

  • Premature ejaculation
  • Delayed ejaculation
  • Anorgasmia

If any of these symptoms last for more than 3 months you should get checked for erectile dysfunction right away.

Can you conceive after erectile dysfunction?

Yes, you can conceive with erectile dysfunction. Mostly, men cannot hold an erection to have sex but if you are able to hold an erection long enough to have sexual intercourse, with the female partner, you might still be able to get your partner pregnant.

Erectile dysfunction is not infertility

People usually confuse erectile dysfunction with sterility. This is not a disease of the reproductive system hence the sperm count and quantity is not affected.

Whereas being infertile can lead to anxiety and other issues which can cause erectile dysfunction. 

The only problem is the transfer of sperm from male to female partners. So if the man can have sex, chances are he can make his partner pregnant. Furthermore, if the man cannot have sex, sperm retrieval is possible. [4]

➡️READ: Natural treatments for male infertility

Sperm health

The key is that the man has no issues regarding sperm motility and quality. Men with healthy sperm count and motility can have a fair chance to get their partner pregnant with assisted reproductive techniques.

Some of the modalities that can help in this regard are:

  1. Knowing the underlying cause and treating it. This will reverse the erectile dysfunction diminishing the cause that is stopping the erection from forming and you can have normal sexual activity.
  2. Your doctor might prescribe you medication to increase blood flow to your penis, hence aiding in erection.
  3. Artificial insemination: the semen from the male is injected into the female uterus by other means. If there are no other fertility issues, this solution gives very good results.
  4. In vitro fertilization and Intracytoplasmic sperm microinjection: during this process, sperm is introduced directly into the cytoplasm of an egg via a microscopic needle. This is done after carrying out testicular autopsy and confirming the sperm health and concentration. This procedure gives the highest rates of success as it solves all or any fertilization problems apart from erectile dysfunction, the parents might be having.
  5. The treatment for erectile dysfunction is multi-pronged. Both sexual dysfunction and fertility issues are solve during the treatment along with psychosexual therapy. Couples also get treated by hormonal therapies and anatomical abnormalities are also fixed.
  6. Nutrition: A diet or supplement providing adequate micronutrients such as zinc, essential fatty acids and proven botanical extracts such as fenugreek can improve libido and erections. 


Erectile dysfunction is the inability to maintain an erection. This can be caused by physiological issues, medical treatments or even psychological issues.

However, while it can cause issues with conceiving, it does not necessarily  mean that you are infertile, and there are methods available to help conceive. 

All of these techniques can be used by men suffering from erectile dysfunction and realize their dreams of becoming parents.

The only thing that should be kept in mind is early treatment and following the treatment course rigorously. 

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  1. Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Erection | physiology. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/erection
  2. NHS Choices (2019). Erectile dysfunction (impotence). [online] NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/erection-problems-erectile-dysfunction/.
  3. Gareri, P., Castagna, A., Francomano, D., Cerminara, G. and De Fazio, P. (2014). Erectile Dysfunction in the Elderly: An Old Widespread Issue with Novel Treatment Perspectives. International Journal of Endocrinology, [online] 2014, pp.1–15. Available at: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2014/878670/.
  4. Fode, M., Krogh-Jespersen, S., Brackett, N.L., Ohl, D.A., Lynne, C.M. and Sønksen, J. (2011). Male sexual dysfunction and infertility associated with neurological disorders. Asian Journal of Andrology, 14(1), pp.61–68. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3735155/