Impotence (or erectile dysfunction) happens when a man can’t get an erection that lasts long enough for sex, or even at all. Sometimes it happens very occasionally, or it can happen more often and be more severe.
Erections happen because of a chemical process which happens during sexual stimulation. The brain sends messages to blood vessels in the penis, telling them to relax and dilate. This allows blood to fill the corpus cavernosum, two muscles in the penis. When these are filled, you become erect.
Often with ED, a problem in the body means these blood vessels can’t dilate when you’re aroused. There are lots of reasons why this happens. It can be caused by bad lifestyle choices, which can lead to things like diabetes or heart disease (which damage circulation and vascular function).
But impotence can also be psychological, meaning even if the vascular system is healthy some men struggle with erections. It can be linked with things like anxiety, depression or general nervousness surrounding sex. This can impact on nerve signals coming out of the brain, meaning the arteries near the penis don’t get the right commands.