Erection problems (impotence) are very common, particularly in men over 40. It’s usually nothing to worry about, but you should see a GP if it keeps happening.

Causes of erection problems

Most men occasionally fail to get or keep an erection.

This is usually due to stress, tiredness, anxiety or drinking too much alcohol, and it’s nothing to worry about.

If it happens more often, it may be caused by physical or emotional problems.

See a GP or go to a sexual health clinic if:

  • erection problems keep happening

It could be a sign of an underlying health condition.

What happens at your appointment

The doctor or nurse will ask about your lifestyle and relationships, and any problems you might be having.

They’ll carry out basic health checks, such as taking your blood pressure. They’ll also examine your genitals to rule out any obvious physical cause.

If you have symptoms like needing to pee more often, your doctor may also need to examine your prostate. They might have to examine your bottom (rectal examination).

Treatment for erection problems depends on the cause

Treatments for erectile dysfunction are much better than they used to be, and the problem often goes away.

Physical causes

Possible cause Treatment
Narrowing of penis blood vessels, high blood pressure, high cholesterol medicine to lower blood pressure, statins to lower cholesterol
Hormone problems hormone replacement – for example, testosterone
Side effects of prescribed medication change to medicine following discussion with GP

You may also be asked to make lifestyle changes.