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Causes, medicine & more

Erectile dysfunction is something that most men will experience at some point in their lives.  While this can be a short-term condition caused by things like alcohol, stress, or tiredness, some men will experience erectile dysfunction over a longer period of time. This can be due to a physical or emotional cause. If you’ve regularly been experiencing erectile dysfunction, please speak to a pharmacist or your GP.

Not all men experience the symptoms of erectile dysfunction in the same way. Some men can’t get an erection at all, some men lose their erection before sex, and others can’t get an erection hard enough for sex. If you can’t get or keep an erection long enough for sex, you are experiencing erectile dysfunction. You are not alone, 4.3 million men in the UK have experienced erectile dysfunction symptoms.*

How are the symptoms of erectile dysfunction treated?

The symptoms of erectile dysfunction can be treated in different ways. Some men, for example, find that symptoms of erectile dysfunction improve or disappear when they change their diet or start an exercise regime, and others find that drug treatments are more effective. Oral medicines, such as Viagra Connect, come in tablet form that can easily be ingested. Other treatments, like implants, penis pumps or injections, psychosexual counselling or further treatment from a specialist urologist are available.

The same medication won’t necessarily work for everyone. Various strengths and different medicines are available. Boots has a dedicated Erectile Dysfunction Online Clinic which has a list of prescription-only medicines. Charges apply. Speak to your GP or a pharmacist for advice.

How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?

Since erectile dysfunction symptoms can vary, some men might want to speak to a healthcare professional before they begin to treat it.  Speak to your GP or a pharmacist if you’re concerned about symptoms.

They will try and get a full and clear picture of your general health, including which medicines you’re currently taking. This is so they can recommend the right kind of erectile dysfunction medicine for you.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

Small blood vessels supply the penis, and when a man is sexually aroused, an increase in blood flow into the penis causes the penis to stiffen. Erectile dysfunction can happen if these vessels are blocked in any way. Because the vessels are so thin, blockages can occur easily. Things like smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes and lack of exercise can all have an effect on these blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction symptoms could also be down to emotional or psychological causes, such as anxiety or depression. Sometimes erectile dysfunction may be a side effect of being on certain medication.

Health issues can also contribute to erectile dysfunction. Circulation problems can mean blood struggles to reach the penis and problems like hormonal imbalances, groin injuries, or low mood have also been known to have an effect on a man’s ability to achieve an erection.

If you haven’t already, talk to your GP about your symptoms.

Should I discuss my erection problem with my partner?

Trying to ignore the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and resist telling your partner what’s going on is something that might seem tempting to try at first, but it risks hurting you (as it could be a sign of an underlying health issue) and your partner who may believe your erectile dysfunction symptoms mean you are not attracted to them anymore. Erectile dysfunction is a medical condition and is nobody’s fault. Telling your partner about your symptoms will help explain it to them, and they can offer you support.

Remember that most cases of erectile dysfunction can be treated and that 4.3 million men in the UK experience erectile dysfunction at some stage.*

What other erectile dysfunction medicines are available?

Erectile dysfunction can be managed in various different ways, with lifestyle changes, prescription medication, or hormone therapy in some cases. However, Viagra Connect is the first erectile dysfunction medicine available without prescription in the UK that can be sold over-the-counter without the need for a prescription. Boots offer Viagra Connect 50mg in packs of four tablets or eight tablets.

Oral drugs

There are currently four oral medicines available for erectile dysfunction. They are: Sildenafil, Tadalafil, Vardenafil and Avanafil.

These kinds of tablets can be prescribed by a GP, or people experiencing erectile dysfunction can go to the Boots Erectile Dysfunction Online Clinic to see our range of medication to suit different needs. If you do start any oral drugs for erectile dysfunction, you should speak to your GP to discuss the new medicine you are taking and so that they can give you a health check for your erectile dysfunction symptoms.

Vacuum pumps

To get an erection with a vacuum pump, a man puts his penis inside the plastic tube and then pumps all the air out of it. This creates a vacuum, which means this can help blood flow to the penis.

Injectable medicines

Some drugs can be inserted into the penis, either via pellet or injection. These generally require the supervision of a medical professional.

Hormone therapy

Sometimes, erectile dysfunction can be caused by hormonal imbalances. If that is the case, your GP will refer you to an endocrinologist who will be able to prescribe hormone replacement therapy - for example, doses of testosterone.


Erectile dysfunction can sometimes only be treated with surgery. Doctors may recommend a penis implant.

Erectile dysfunction can be managed in a number of ways. It may be as ‘simple’ as stopping smoking, or you might consider other treatment options. Whichever you consider, remember that erectile dysfunction is a treatable condition and there is no need for you to suffer with symptoms alone.

If you have any questions about erectile dysfunction and how it can be treated, speak to a pharmacist or your GP.


Erectile dysfunction FAQs

Information & advice

What is Spedra?

Spedra is an oral medication which can help men who struggle with erectile dysfunction (ED)

*Men reporting occasional and frequent difficulty getting and maintaining and erection [ref. Kantar TNS Omnibus Survey Dec 2010 – in a survey of 1,033 men] Viagra Connect 50mg film coated tablets contains sildenafil and is suitable for men aged 18 or over who have erectile dysfunction symptoms. Always read the label.