ED can, however, unexpectedly occur without past symptoms or warning. Sudden ED, also known as sudden impotence, can be the result of poor lifestyle habits or persistent health concerns.
Causes of Sudden Impotence
Sudden ED can be caused by a host of newly introduced physical and/or psychological factors. In most cases, sudden onset is linked to a psychological issue.1 These include:
- Acute or chronic stress
- Performance worries
- Low self-esteem
It’s important to note that temporary ED itself can worsen these conditions, namely stress and performance anxiety. The sudden inability to achieve or maintain an erection can be a distressing event that generates or amplifies these negative feelings, which increases the likelihood of another episode.
In addition to psychological concerns, multiple physical factors contribute to short-term sexual dysfunction, such as:
- An increase in alcohol intake
- Certain medications (sedatives, antidepressants, appetite suppressants, or blood pressure medication)
- Smoking or drug use
- Low-quality sleep due to insomnia, sleep apnea, or other sleep disorders
Causes of Long-Term ED
Traditional ED is often connected to other chronic and systemic health conditions that develop over time. This is because the circulatory, nervous, and endocrine systems interact with and impact sexual function. When one or more of these systems aren’t working properly, ED is likely to occur. Such conditions include:
- Heart disease
- Vascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
Injuries to the reproductive organs, especially the prostate, can also directly affect the ability to maintain an erection. Long-term use of certain medications, like antidepressants and blood pressure medications, also increases the risk of sexual dysfunction.
When Should You Talk to Your Doctor?
Men who experience recurring symptoms despite lifestyle changes should visit their doctor to request a health screening, discuss symptoms, and evaluate treatment options. In addition to helping restore sexual function, your doctor will screen for any underlying chronic conditions that could impact your health in other, more serious ways.
Lifestyle Modifications to Manage Sudden ED
In addition to medical treatment, certain lifestyle changes can help reduce episodes of sudden impotence. Your doctor may recommend:
- Eating a healthier diet
- Getting more exercise and physical activity
- Losing weight
- Getting consistent, high-quality sleep
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Stopping tobacco or drug use
- Seeking mental health treatment
- Reducing chronic stress
Medical Treatment Options for ED
For any case of ED, sudden or gradual, it’s important to address any existing health concerns first. After these conditions are resolved or under control, you can work with your doctor to determine the best treatment for you. These options include:
- Oral medications (phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitors (PDE5); commonly known as Viagra or Cialis)
- Testosterone therapy (if low levels are detected)
- Penile injections (for immediate erections)
- Intraurethral medication (improves blood flow to the penis)
- Vacuum erection devices (for immediate erections)
- Penile implants (inflatable and non-inflatable surgically-implanted devices)
Your doctor will likely begin with non-invasive treatment. Medications like Viagra and Cialis are safe and highly effective, as they dilate blood vessels to promote blood flow to the penis. In combination with sexual stimulation, these medications can produce an erection sufficient to complete intercourse. Most start working within 15 to 60 minutes.
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- Sheng, Z. (2021). Psychological consequences of erectile dysfunction. Sexual Health 12(6), 19-22.