Vascular disease cuts blood flow to the penis causing erectile dysfunction. 50% – 70% of men have ED caused by poor vascular supply.
Vascular diseases affect blood vessels. They lower blood flow to organs like the heart, brain, and kidneys, and, unfortunately, the penis is no exception.
The good news is that there are specially created medical treatments that usually help fight the types of vascular disease that can cause erectile dysfunction.
Usually, a vascular disease happens when cholesterol and other substances build up and block blood vessels. In some men, the arteries and veins in the penis, and the rest of the body, may not work properly. They may keep blood from flowing when they’re not supposed to.
Some common health conditions are linked with vascular disease and clogged arteries:
- coronary artery disease (clogged arteries in the heart);
- high blood pressure;
- high cholesterol;
- peripheral vascular disease, which affects the blood vessels that send blood to the arms, hands, legs, and feet.
If you have one of these conditions, it’s more likely that the problem can affect the blood vessels in your penis and cause erectile dysfunction.
Also, smoking greatly raises your chances of clogged arteries and vascular disease. If you have erectile dysfunction, it helps to kick the habit.
What is a venous leak?
Your penis must store blood to keep an erection. If the veins can’t keep the blood there during an erection, you’ll lose it. This is called a venous leak. It may happen with vascular disease.
It’s also linked to diabetes, Peyronie’s disease (a buildup of scar tissue in the penis that leads to curved, painful erections), some nerve conditions, and even severe anxiety.
Atherosclerosis and Erectile Dysfunction: A Vulnerable Rush
The blood supply to the penis comes from arteries in the abdomen (belly). Smaller arteries branch off to carry blood down into the penis. When it’s time for an erection, these arteries dilate. More blood flows into the penis, causing it to swell.
The rush of blood creates high pressure in the penis that also slows down the flow of blood out of the penis. This produces a firm erection that can be maintained until orgasm – if the blood vessels are healthy.
Atherosclerosis and Erectile Dysfunction: Dam Blockages?
To get and maintain an erection, blood vessels in the penis have to be robust, to rapidly increase blood flow. Erectile dysfunction usually means blood vessels everywhere aren’t in perfect health. This can be a signal of increased risk, long before blockages from atherosclerosis form.
To understand what goes wrong, think of blood flow like a river over a dam. Engineers control the flow: they can increase flow to make rapids, or narrow it to a trickling stream.
A similar mechanism is at work in your arteries. In your penis, blood flow needs to open wide during sexual arousal. Likewise, you need a wide-open blood flow to your heart’s arteries during exercise. The inside lining of blood vessels (endothelium) releases chemicals on-demand to accomplish this.
The endothelium can be damaged by high blood pressure, smoking, or diabetes. They also cause atherosclerosis.
Once damaged, the endothelium can’t expand arteries to increase blood flow as well. Less blood flows into the penis means a less firm erection.
Atherosclerosis and Erectile Dysfunction: The Early Warning Sign
The endothelium also acts like a maintenance crew that prevents atherosclerosis plaques from developing. Damage to the endothelium occurs before blockages from atherosclerosis appear.
Doctors have long recognized erectile dysfunction as an “early warning sign” for atherosclerosis. Difficulty with erections usually means atherosclerosis is developing. Erectile dysfunction can also mean atherosclerosis is already present, in the arteries of the heart or brain.
Most men with erectile dysfunction have risk factors for atherosclerosis, including:
- high cholesterol levels;
- cigarette smoking;
- high blood pressure;
Diabetes seems to be particularly hard on the arteries in the penis. Half of the diabetic men in their 50s report some degree of impotence.
For these reasons, erectile dysfunction is a red flag that demands attention. Experts agree that all men with ED should undergo “risk profiling” for atherosclerosis of the heart.
Of course, other factors besides atherosclerosis can cause erectile dysfunction. Problems with nerves, hormones, and emotional factors must be ruled out. Seeing a doctor can sort this out. You can start by consulting our medical expert for free just by getting in touch with us right away.