Nerve Damage and erectile dysfunction: All You Need To Know

Nerve Damage and erectile dysfunction: All You Need To Know
Published : Feb 05, 2024
Last Updated : Apr 07, 2024

Do you find difficulty in developing or maintaining a hard erection during sexual activity? If so, then you might have erectile dysfunction.

There are times when a nerve injury can bring on erectile dysfunction. This can occur from various medical conditions like diabetes and injuries such as pelvic surgery or spinal cord injury. When it comes to erectile dysfunction, nerve damage doesn't have to be the actual cause, but it can be one cause.

Some other effects of nerve damage-induced ED can include urinary incontinence or not able to urinate. However, finding an underlying cause of erectile dysfunction and treating it can aid in managing your condition quickly.

What do you mean by neurological ED?

Neurological erectile dysfunction is a type of erectile dysfunction that is caused by damage to your nervous system. In the process of achieving and maintaining an erection during sexual activity, your nervous system plays a vital role. It is essential to know that an erection starts only when you are sexually stimulated or aroused.

Once you feel aroused because of sexual contact, nerves in the brain and pelvic area transmit impulses to the erectile tissue in the male sexual organ. These impulses further make blood vessels involved in supplying erectile tissue expand and increase blood flow to the male reproductive organ. This blood flow provides an erection, its perfect size and firmness.

As blood continues to flow in the male sexual organs, a fibrous membrane holds blood inside the tissue. This further aids you in achieving an erection and getting involved in a lovemaking session for a long time. However, this process depends upon several things, including:

  • A functional nervous system

  • Sexual stimulation

  • Smooth blood flow

When your nervous system or nerve is damaged, this process can get interrupted and prevent you from achieving or maintaining erections.

What causes nerve damage?

Several conditions or injuries can contribute to nerve damage problems. Nerve damage under the following conditions can result in developing erectile dysfunction:

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Diabetes

  • Heavy metal poisoning

  • Chronic alcohol usage

  • Nerve and spinal cord injuries

  • Nerve damage due to surgery, like from a pelvic operation

What is the link between nerve damage and erectile dysfunction?

There are certain health conditions, injuries & pelvic surgery which might cause damage to the nerves present in the male sexual organs.

This further stops nerve signals from your spinal cord from reaching the male reproductive organ. Sexual stimulation triggers nerves to release some chemicals that enhance blood flow in erection chambers present in the male reproductive organ. 

As blood pressure within these chambers boosts, the male sexual organs become firm and lead to an erection.

Thus, nerve damage can influence this process and make you suffer from erectile dysfunction condition.

Symptoms of nerve damage-induced ED

You are probably suffering from an ED condition if you fail to achieve or maintain an erection required for sexual intercourse.

When nerve damage causes ED, you might experience some other symptoms depending upon the type of nerve damage causing erectile dysfunction.

While suffering from autonomic nerve damage, your sexual organs and other organs are affected, causing erectile dysfunction.

Autonomic nerve damage that causes ED can also cause complications with your bladder and bowels, including:

  • Constipation

  • Urinary incontinence

  • Diarrhea

When injury or surgery to your pelvic area makes you suffer from ED, then you can experience the following conditions:

  • Urinary urgency

  • A burning pain, tingling, or numbness in your buttocks & genital area

  • Pain during sexual intercourse

  • A frequent urge to urinate

How erectile dysfunction and nerve damage can be diagnosed?

When it comes to diagnosis of ED and nerve damage, a doctor first conducts some physical examinations to know what causes Erectile dysfunction symptoms in you.

A doctor can do some blood tests or ultrasound scans to check other physical or psychological causes.

How nerve damage-induced ED can be treated?

Most cases of ED caused by nerve damage can be treated, but some conditions involve complex & significant injuries, which can be challenging to treat.

Here are some effective Erectile dysfunction treatment options that can be considered:

ED medicines

Several cases of neurological ED can be treated effectively with prescription medicines. These are oral prescription drugs used for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, which belongs to the class of PDE5 inhibitors.

Some common ED drugs include Viagra and Cialis, which treat erectile dysfunction and ensure hard erections.

These medicines improve blood flow to the male sexual organs and allow you to achieve the erections required for sexual activity. But to avoid taking ED drugs with blood pressure medications, especially with nitrates.

Vacuum constriction devices

When medicines such as Cialis and Viagra do not work effectively for men suffering from neurological ED, vacuum constriction devices are suggested.

These devices aid in drawing blood to male sexual organs.

When used in the right way, they enhance the quality of your erections and allow you to enjoy satisfying sexual activity.

Thus, nerve damage can impact your erectile function negatively and cause ED.

So, without feeling embarrassed, consult your doctor immediately to experience fulfilling sexual activity.

Other Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Neurological issues are not the only factor that causes or worsens erectile dysfunction. Other factors can lead to sexual dysfunction, like ED. Other common causes of ED are:

Cardiovascular disease: In most cases, ED is often linked to atherosclerosis(clogged arteries). People under such conditions face high blood pressure and heart and blood vessel disease that further leads to ED.

Physical injuries and scarring: ED may appear due to physical injuries that affect your penis or pelvis area. Scarring conditions, such as Peyronie's disease, may also contribute to erectile dysfunction. Also, prostate cancer surgery can cause damage to the nerves that control erections and may lead to ED.

Psychological issues: Men facing mental health issues such as fear or anxiety regarding sexual content may face ED. Depression, chronic stress and persistent feelings of guilt or low self-esteem are commonly found to affect male sexual response.

Medications: Certain medications are also known to cause sexual side effects like ED. Drugs used to treat depression, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, high blood pressure and androgen-related health issues may impact your sexual function. 

Habits and lifestyle factors: If you drink a large amount of alcohol on a regular basis, smoke and are overweight or physically inactive, then it might affect your sexual health. These factors can increase the risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

FaQs about Erectile dysfunction due to nerve damage

Will Viagra work if you have nerve damage?

Viagra containing Sildenafil enhances the effects of nitric oxide in the blood. It's a gas that relaxes smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels. The impact of nitric gas allows blood to flow into the penis when it gets released from nerve endings. However, diabetics and other patients with nerve damage may not respond to Viagra.

Can erectile dysfunction due to nerve damage be cured?

According to the research, PDE5 inhibitors are a safe and effective first-line treatment for nerve-related ED. Second-line therapies include penile injections like papaverine, pprostaglandinE1 or phentolamine and vacuum devices. In any case, if these treatments are not effective, then penile implants can be another option.

What is the difference between vascular and neurogenic ED?

Vascular Erectile dysfunction affects the blood vessels or valves in the penis and causes poor blood supply to the penis. In contrast, Neurogenic ED occurs due to nerve problems that prevent signals from traveling from the brain to the penis.

Final lines:

Erectile dysfunction (ED) can arise from nerve damage, often associated with conditions like diabetes or injuries such as pelvic surgery. While nerve damage isn't always the primary cause of ED, it can contribute to or lead to problems getting or keeping an erection. Symptoms may include urinary issues alongside sexual dysfunction. Diagnosing nerve-related ED involves physical exams and tests, with treatments ranging from oral medications like PDE5 inhibitors (e.g., Viagra, Cialis) to vacuum constriction devices.

Other factors like cardiovascular disease, physical injuries, psychological issues, certain medications, and lifestyle habits can also exacerbate or cause ED. Thus, consulting your healthcare provider for comprehensive evaluation and treatment is necessary.