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eMed previously Babylon Health

Erectile Dysfunction

Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 8th April 2019

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to have and maintain an erection firm enough to have sex.


Erections are caused and maintained by a combination of factors, including vascular (blood vessels), hormonal, psychological and the nervous system. A problem with one (or sometimes more) of these systems can lead to erectile dysfunction.

Risk factors


  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease and atherosclerosis (clogged heart vessels)


  • Low testosterone
  • Low prolactin
  • Thyroid disease
  • Pituitary disorders


  • Stress
  • Relationship problems
  • Mental health problems


  • Diabetes (affects the nerves)
  • Multiple sclerosis

Certain medications can also cause erectile dysfunction. Examples of commonly used medications that might do so include antidepressants, beta blockers, steroids, antacids (such as ranitidine) and digoxin.

Typical Symptoms

  • Difficulty initiating an erection
  • Difficulty maintaining an erection

Common Treatment

Treatment varies depending on suspected cause. Often the GP will take a good history to work out the likely causes, sometimes need to examine you and then either:

  • Organise blood tests
  • Signpost you towards psychological support/therapy
  • Refer you to a specialist
  • Prescribe medication

When to speak to a doctor

Erectile dysfunction can often be initially managed via a digital consultation. If the GP decides you need a face to face appointment, they will discuss what steps you can take next.

To speak to one of our GPs, download the app and create an account today.


Erectile dysfunction can be managed and prevented by:

  • A healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and exercise
  • Not drinking alcohol to excess
  • Avoiding illicit drugs

Not cycling more than 3 hours a week (or if doing so, take measures such as having a properly fitted seat that is in an appropriate position)

More information


The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.