Harvard Health Letter

Erectile dysfunction and the drugs to treat it

In many cases, medications are all a man needs to stay sexually active.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects almost 70% of men ages 70 and older. Fortunately, treatment is often just a matter of taking a pill. "We usually start with oral medications, and they're effective in about 50% of the cases," says Dr. Michael O'Leary, a urologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital and editor of the Harvard Special Health Report What To Do About Erectile Dysfunction.

Why it happens

ED is diagnosed when a man has difficulty attaining and sustaining an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. Causes include stress, depression, an enlarged prostate, clogged arteries, obesity, smoking, and nerve damage resulting from diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson's disease.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »