The commercials for Viagra may make it seem like erectile dysfunction is an issue reserved for older men (after all, it affects nearly half of men over 40). And while this diagnosis — which is defined as being unable to achieve and maintain an erection — does increase with age, it can affect young men, too. In fact, erectile dysfunction is found in about 26 percent of men under the age of 40, according to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
If you’re young and experiencing problems with your erection, there are some general culprits you might want to consider taking a look at:
Stress and anxiety: For men in their teens, 20s, and 30s, most cases of erectile dysfunction are psychological. There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with sex for a man: trying to impress their partner, making the right moves, concerns about size. This agony can lead to performance anxiety. Some men with erectile dysfunction point to one specific instance where they lost their erection during sex as the reason for later impotence. This buildup of anxiety causes an influx of adrenaline, or epinephrine, which can inhibit an erection.
Excessive bicycle riding: If you’re an avid biker, that doesn’t mean you’re going to have erectile dysfunction now, or when you’re older. But if you experience numbness as you ride, within the first few miles, or after biking marathons, you may be causing long-term damage. The nerves that supply the penis are below the prostate and rest on the bicycle’s seat. If you are riding a bicycle and are numb, you may be damaging these nerves. Either get fitted for a better seat, or get off the bike.
Diabetes and high blood pressure: Diabetes mellitus is one of the predominant causes of erectile dysfunction because diabetes impacts the body’s production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide provides the penis with the blood it needs to raise to attention in the moment. If you are hypertensive and have high blood pressure, then you are going to have trouble getting it up in your 20s and 30s because your body is acting like you’re in your 60s.
Drinking and recreational drug use: Sure, alcohol may serve as a form of “liquid courage” if you’re trying to flirt, but it won’t help with much else. Alcohol acts as a depressant so it relaxes you, but it can cause an inability to have sex. The illicit drug cocaine, acts like pseudoephedrine and will lower your testosterone levels and cause erectile dysfunction as well.
Obesity or overweight: Anything that’s bad for your heart is bad for your penis. Blood vessels are tiny in the penis and if they are clogged, the blood won’t flow there. A good diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can make everything work better. Men don’t realize how complicated erections are. We should be amazed when a guy does get an erection. Instead we are amazed when they don’t.
Cancer treatments: Chemotherapy and radiation can cause erectile dysfunction. Chemotherapy may lower testosterone levels, which affect blood flow to the penis. Radiation, on the other hand, can directly damage the lining of the blood vessels or cause nerve damage. Doctors who specialize in oncofertility, the preservation of fertility during treatments such as chemotherapy, can recommend treatments options.
Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Your Penis
Listen, guys: If there’s one thing you should take away from this news, it’s that erectile dysfunction isn’t just an issue for the retirement set. It’s an issue that can affect 20-something men too. If you suspect you might be suffering from erectile dysfunction, talk to your doctor about the issue. More than likely, your doctor will prescribe lifestyle changes, including a healthier diet and more exercise. But you’ll also be making sure your penis problem isn’t indicating more serious health issues.