Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. It is also sometimes also referred to as impotence. ed-article1Occasional ED is not uncommon. Many men experience it during times of stress. However, frequent ED can be a sign of health problems that need treatment. It can also be a sign of emotional or relationship difficulties that may need to be addressed by a professional. Not all male sexual problems are caused by ED. Other types of male sexual dysfunction include: •premature ejaculation •delayed or absent ejaculation •lack of interest in sex An erection is the result of increased blood flow into the penis. Blood flow is usually stimulated by either sexual thoughts or direct contact with the penis. When a man becomes sexually excited, muscles in the penis relax. This relaxation allows for increased blood flow through the penile arteries. This blood fills two chambers inside the penis called the corpora cavernosa. As the chambers fill with blood, the penis grows rigid. Erection ends when the muscles contract and the accumulated blood can flow out through the penile veins. ED can occur because of problems at any stage of the erection process. For example, the penile arteries may be too damaged to open properly and allow blood in. The potential causes of ED are numerous. They include: •cardiovascular disease •diabetes •damage from cancer or surgery •injuries •stress •anxiety •relationship problems •drug use •alcohol use •smoking These factors can work singly or in combination.