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What is Neurological Erectile Dysfunction?

  • Friday 30 July 2021
  • 4 minute(s) read

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What is Neurological Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction affects millions of men across America. The inability to maintain an erection can be caused by dozens of different situations or medical conditions. If you notice that you cannot participate in sexual activity like you used to, you should seek your doctor's advice. 

Age and certain medical conditions increase your risk of developing ED, but talking to your doctor can help ensure that a serious condition does not cause your ED. Erectile dysfunction treatment can help with symptoms, but ED may occur continuously if the original ailment is not addressed. Neurological disorders are long-lasting and may lead to erectile dysfunction. Learn more about the neurological causes of ED below. 1 

Neurological ED Explained

You may think ED is only a concern for your grandpa, but men of all ages are susceptible. Nerve damage is one of the major risk factors for ED, especially if you live with a chronic condition like diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes and your blood glucose levels are not well controlled, you will likely experience nerve damage over time, affecting your erections.

a man covered by shadows

One Spanish study of 90 men found that 69% of the men who had sexual problems also had nerve damage. Other conditions that may lead to neurological ED include Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries. 2

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Erectile Dysfunction

Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating autoimmune disease that often leads to erectile dysfunction. ED is one of the most common symptoms of MS. When you are living with an autoimmune disease, your body is in a fight with itself. In the case of MS, the immune system attacks and destroys the protective covering of nerve cells of the brain, spinal cord, and eyes. This causes symptoms like pain, cognitive issues, muscle weakness, and spasticity.

There is no exact cause of MS, but it is thought that genetic and environmental factors play a role in this abnormal immune system reaction. MS is rarely fatal, and many with the disease live a long and healthy life with the proper treatments. Most people with MS die of unrelated causes like heart disease and cancer. 3

ED is common with MS because erections are intricately tied to nerve signals. When sexual stimulation occurs, nerve signals travel down the spinal cord to trigger an erection. When MS damages nerves, the lines of communication between the nerves are affected. In some cases, men may experience an erection from erotic stimulation but not physical or vice versa. Your ED may be related to your MS if you experience:

  • Urinary leakage during intercourse
  • A reduced sensation of the penis
  • Difficulty in achieving ejaculation 4

Parkinson’s Disease and Erectile Dysfunction

Parkinson's is a progressive nervous system disorder that disrupts the natural movements of the body. These movements often start small, like a hand tremor, but get worse over time. As the disease progresses, your face may show little expression, and your speech may become slurred. Like MS, there is no cure or direct cause of Parkinson's, but medications and surgery can improve your symptoms. 5

two hands

Parkinson's targets the autonomic nervous system, which is directly responsible for sexual responses. The neurons of the brain are targeted by Parkinson's and cause dopamine-producing nerve cells to die.

This lack of dopamine can cause a decreased sex drive and a lack of sexual interest. A loss of dopamine can also contribute to other Parkinson's symptoms like walking patterns and muscle rigidity changes. Sexually related Parkinson's disease symptoms can include:

  • The inability to reach orgasm
  • Vaginal dryness
  • The inability to maintain an erection due to blood circulation and pelvic muscle issues
  • Impaired sexual coordination 6

Spinal Cord Injuries and ED

No one plans on injuring themselves, but life happens. Spinal cord injuries can occur for several reasons and may impact a person's ability to participate in sexual activity. This is because the spine is vital in the nervous system activity in the body. The spinal cord sends messages between the brain and the rest of the body, and if a portion of the spine is damaged, you may lose control of certain bodily movements. The most common causes of spinal cord injuries include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents: Around half of the new spinal cord injuries are caused by auto and motorcycle accidents every year.
  • Falls: Falls cause around 31% of spinal cord injuries, especially for adults over 65 years old.
  • Diseases: Bone diseases like osteoporosis and arthritis can affect the integrity of the spinal cord.
  • Recreation activities: Athletic activities that involve diving, or impact sports, are a common cause of spinal cord injuries.

a model of the human spine

Spinal cord injuries of any kind can affect sexual function. Many men may be able to achieve adequate erections without intervention, but others may not have the ability to achieve or feel sexual pleasure. In some cases, erectile dysfunction pills may be able to assist in sexual function, but other men may need more help. Luckily, there are many options available, like penile implants and vacuum therapy. If you have neurological condition or nerve damage, talk to your doctor about your sexual health.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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