As men age, they’re more likely to experience erectile dysfunction (ED) because their testosterone levels naturally decrease over time. Because testosterone plays a critical role in sexual health and function, low levels can make it difficult to get or maintain an erection.
But more and more men — 30% of men under 40 — experience ED earlier in life.
Here to explain why, Dr. James Lee, our board-certified osteopathic physician at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care in Woodstock, Georgia, provides a closer look at the causes of ED in younger men and how our comprehensive men’s health services can help you get to the bottom of the problem and back on track sexually.
Why do young men get ED?
Erections happen quickly and sometimes unexpectedly, giving a false impression that it doesn’t take much to trigger one.
On the contrary, erections involve a complicated mix of physical, mental, and emotional factors. Before an erection can occur, your brain, muscles, nerves, and circulatory system need to be in sync.
Low testosterone is the most common culprit in older men, but men of any age — even if they have lots of testosterone — can experience ED if any of the contributing systems are out of whack. Here are the top three causes of ED in younger men.
1. Physical causes of ED in young men
Although most men under 40 have a plentiful supply of testosterone, younger men can have low levels due to problems in their endocrine system. Medical conditions that can mess with your testosterone include:
- Klinefelter syndrome
Other medical conditions can also lead to ED. For example, coronary heart disease and peripheral artery disease (PAD) affect your circulatory system and, therefore, impact your ability to get and maintain an erection. In fact, ED may be an early warning sign of coronary diseases, so don’t ignore it.
Diseases and injuries that affect your spinal cord may also contribute to ED by interfering with the nerve impulses necessary for erections. Multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and traumatic spinal injuries are examples of potential ED-causing problems.
Obesity and inactivity are also physical roadblocks to healthy penile function.
2. Substance-related causes of ED in young men
You don’t have to be a young man to misuse or abuse drugs and alcohol, but studies show that those who are 12 to 20 years old make up the lion's share of binge drinkers, and nearly 10% of guys 12 or older struggled with a substance use disorder. Even medications you take by prescription can pose a problem.
If ED has become a problem in your life, consider the following substances that may be at the core:
- High blood pressure medication
- Hormone therapy
- Calcium channel blockers
Talk to Dr. Lee about all medications (prescription and illicit) you take and any supplements you consume regularly.
3. Psychological causes of ED in young men
Just as psychological stimuli can trigger an erection, they can block one as well. Pressure to perform sexually can be all it takes to shut down the whole system and prevent an erection because your mind and emotions aren’t in sync with your body.
Young men are expected to be virile and able to get an erection at will, but it’s a myth. Unrealistic expectations and excess stress can short-circuit your erection reflexes. Here are some ways your mind can get in the way of your sex life.
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship issues
- Psychological abuse
- Social pressure
- Mental health conditions
- Poor sleep quality
Identifying these psychogenic factors can help you reduce and avoid them. Often, stress management and mental health awareness are all it takes to resolve ED in young men.
Help for young men with ED
Dr. Lee runs various tests to determine the underlying cause of your ED. Urine and blood tests can detect hormone imbalances, thyroid problems, and heart issues. He also checks for penile abnormalities, such as Peyronie’s disease, to determine anatomical or structural issues.
Once he diagnoses the problem, Dr. Lee develops a customized treatment plan to get you functioning like your old self again. This may include lifestyle changes, weight loss, or hormone therapy. If you have a medical condition, he works to resolve that first, and the ED problem follows.
Don’t suffer from ED during the prime of your life. Contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lee and get started on a treatment to restore your sexual health.