What is impotence?

Impotence, otherwise known as erectile dysfunction or ED, is when a man can’t get or keep an erection hard enough for sex. Some men can’t get an erection to start with, others struggle to maintain an erection before sex, while some find it difficult to get an erection which is hard enough for penetration.

Impotence can affect men of all ages and could happen at any point in their lives. If you’ve been living with impotence for some time, it’s important that you go and see your GP to make sure that your symptoms are not linked to any possible underlying health issue.

What are the causes of impotence?

There’s a wide variety of causes for impotence, but they tend to fall into two categories: physical and psychological. Impotence can be a result of one or a combination of both.

Physical causes of impotence include things such as high cholesterol, excessive drinking and a lack of exercise. Smoking is another common cause as it contributes to blocked blood vessels in the penis, which can result in impotence. Living with certain medical conditions can also lead to impotence – such as diabetes, circulation problems or groin injuries – while sometimes impotence can be a side effect of taking certain medicines.

Impotence symptoms can also occur because of psychological issues, such as stress, depression and anxiety. Sexual performance anxiety, for example, is a condition that can occur when a man feels that his sexual performance isn’t good enough, or isn’t pleasing his partner adequately. 

This worry can make it difficult to get an erection which can further enhance the sexual performance anxiety to the point where someone may not even want to have sex anymore. A psychological cause of impotence such as this may be addressed by treatment such as counselling, which can also be used in combination with other forms of treatment. General stress or anxiety about everyday things such as work or family matters can also contribute towards impotence. 

It’s important to remember that you should always visit a doctor if you’re having impotence problems. Trouble getting an erection can be a sign of an underlying health condition, such as diabetes or heart problems, so it’s essential that you visit your GP so this can be ruled out. 

How can I treat impotence?

Symptoms of impotence can be managed in a variety of ways. Some men find that simple changes to their lifestyle – like eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake or stopping smoking – can help improve impotence symptoms. 

Although you can look to take steps yourself to help treat impotence, it’s important that you do speak to your GP so they can take a look at what is causing your erection problems. Treating any underlying health condition may help resolve your impotence symptoms.

There are also a number of oral treatments that are designed for men living with impotence. A range of different oral treatments is available through the Boots Erectile Dysfunction Online Clinic. 

You don’t need to visit a GP to use our online clinic, but we’ll ask you to complete an online questionnaire, so one of our online clinicians can check that any treatment is suitable for you (subject to availability and clinician approval. Charges apply).

Other impotence treatments can include:

• Vacuum pumps

• Injectable medicines

• Topical creams

• Hormone therapy

• Surgery

What else should I know about impotence?

If you’re experiencing impotence, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that around 4.3 million men in the UK have frequently or occasionally lived with impotence symptoms over the last 12 months. If you’ve noticed that impotence is affecting your sex life, it can be helpful to speak to your partner about it. In even the happiest of relationships, partners of those with impotence may worry this means their partner doesn’t find them attractive or doesn’t love them. Reassure your partner of your feelings so they can support you while you seek the right treatment.

It may seem daunting to confront your impotence if you live with the condition, but there are lots of steps you can take to help deal with it. These include going through the Boots Erectile Dysfunction Online Clinic, having a discreet chat with a pharmacist about Viagra Connect – an over-the-counter medicine for ED (treatment subject to stock availability and pharmacist approval. Contains Sildenafil. Always read the label) – or speaking with your GP.

† Erectile dysfunction medicine without a prescription. Subject to stock availability & pharmacist approval. Contains sildenafil. Always read the label ​​​​​​​