Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection. Remedies for erectile dysfunction may include medication, surgery, lifestyle changes, or managing underlying health conditions.
the Boston Area Community Health Survey also indicates that erectile dysfunction occurs in 10% of men between the ages of 30 and 39, rising to 59% of men between the ages of 70 and 79.
This article defines what erectile dysfunction is and describes some of the reasons for its increased prevalence in older men. Finally, we explore some lifestyle tips and medical treatments that may help restore sexual function in older adults.
ED is the medical term for when a person has difficulty getting or keeping an erection.
Several factors can cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction. Aging is one such reason, as older men are more likely to:
- have medical conditions that may contribute to ED
- taking medications that can contribute to erectile dysfunction
- experience a decrease in testosterone levels, which can reduce sexual arousal
Older men are
These conditions can affect blood flow or nerve sensations, both of which are necessary for an erection. Decreased blood flow, known as vascular insufficiency, is one of the
Older men are more likely to take medication to manage underlying medical conditions. Although these drugs can improve overall health,
A person who suspects that their medications may be contributing to their erectile dysfunction should discuss this with a doctor. A healthcare professional can reduce the dosage or suggest an appropriate alternative.
A person should not stop taking a medicine unless their doctor tells them it is safe to do so.
Testosterone is a hormone with several important functions in the body. It helps with various aspects of sexual health in men, including:
- libido regulation
- maintain the tissues that irrigate the penis
A person’s testosterone levels generally decline with age. This could lead to reduced libido, which could contribute to erectile dysfunction. It can also increase scarring in the venous network of the penis, which impedes blood flow to this area.
When treating erectile dysfunction, doctors often recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.
The following lifestyle changes may help treat or prevent erectile dysfunction:
- have a healthy diet
- engage in regular physical activity
- lose weight if a person is overweight or obese
- stop smoking
- limit or avoid alcohol
- manage any underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes
- improve sleep habits
A lack of sexual desire can also influence erectile dysfunction in older men. According to a 2020 review, an estimate 82.4% male aged 80 and over report a lack of sexual desire. Seeking treatment from a sex therapist is an option that could improve sexual desire and reduce symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
In addition to lifestyle measures, doctors may also prescribe medications for erectile dysfunction. Most are safe for the elderly, although a healthcare professional should check that they are compatible with other medications a person is taking.
Below are some medications that a doctor may prescribe to treat erectile dysfunction.
One of the most common medical treatments for erectile dysfunction in older adults is a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE 5) inhibitors. These drugs relax and widen blood vessels, improving blood flow to the penis.
According to a
Here are some examples of PDE 5 inhibitors:
- avanafil (Stendra)
- sildenafil (Viagra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
Testosterone replacement therapy
If an older man has low testosterone, a doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). This will involve the regular administration of testosterone via injections, gel or skin patch.
However, TRT will not treat some of the more common causes of erectile dysfunction in older people, such as reduced blood flow or nerve damage.
Alprostadil is an injectable medication or penile suppository that some people may use to get an erection. It quickly dilates the blood vessels in the penis, helping a person to get an erection inside
Injectable alprostadil medications include:
Alprostadil is an example of an intracavernous injection, but doctors may use a mixture of three drugs called Trimix, which includes alprostadil, phentolamine, and papaverine.
Doctors may also prescribe an injectable suppository called a medicated urethral system for erection.
Surgery is a possible treatment for men with refractory erectile dysfunction, where other treatments have not been effective.
Penile implant surgery has the highest patient and partner satisfaction of all ED treatments, including oral PDE-5 inhibitors and penile injections.
Older people may experience higher rates of erectile dysfunction compared to younger people. They are also more likely to experience medical problems and take medications that increase the likelihood of illness. An age-related decline in testosterone levels can also contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Anyone with concerns about erectile dysfunction should see their doctor. A medical professional will work to diagnose the cause and provide appropriate treatment.
When treating erectile dysfunction in older adults, a doctor may recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatments. A person can discuss treatment options with their doctor to determine which approach will work best for them.