Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on November 14, 2011

At 72, what can help me get an erection?

I’m 72 and unable to get an erection...even with Viagra. What else could help?

answered by
David Sobel, MD, JD on November 14, 2011

Thank you for sharing your question about erectile dysfunction. I’ll do my best to provide you some useful information.

First, you’re not alone...erectile dysfunction (ED) is one of the most common forms of sexual dysfunction among men, and the chances of experiencing it increases with age. In fact, about 37% of men in your age group (between the ages of 70 and 75) have erectile dysfunction.  

That said, if your ED is causing you distress...it’s a good idea to visit your doctor or urologist to discuss the possible causes of your ED and the best treatments for it. Actually, even if you weren’t bothered by your ED, it would still be important to discuss the issue with your doctor. Why? Because symptoms of ED can be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease...or even heart attack.

What are some causes of ED? Technically, normal erections happen after a man has been turned-on or aroused by sexual input (this could be his partner or even just a sexual image). After that, blood flows to the penis and makes it erect. If the blood can’t flow into the penis, or the blood doesn’t stay in the penis, an erection might not happen. So when assessing ED, doctors try to find out if the blood can’t get into the penis, or if it’s not saying in the penis. Then they can determine the best treatment.

Importantly for you, Viagra is a phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor (PDE-5) drug, which means it can help blood flow into the penis...but keep in mind that for Viagra to work, you still need to be aroused in the first place.

Lifestyle and other health factors can also influence the ability of the penis to get or stay erect. One study found that men who exercised had a lower risk of ED. On the other hand, men who have diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) or heart disease, as well as men who smoke or use certain medications (e.g., meds for depression or high blood pressure) all have higher risks of ED...so if any of these apply to you, that may be a contributing factor.

I encourage you to speak with your doctor or urologist about your reaction to Viagra. Describing your symptoms and talking about your reaction to Viagra can help your doctor determine what’s causing your ED, which will hopefully help determine treatments that work better for you.

Speaking of which...what are some other treatments for ED? Typically, if men try a PDE-5 medication and it doesn’t help, other options for ED treatment include self-injected medications, surgical implantation of a penile prosthesis, possible testosterone treatment (if your testosterone levels are low), psychotherapy or weight loss. You and your doctor can discuss these possible treatments together and pinpoint what’s best for your your situation.

I hope this answer helped you understand some of your options for ED treatment, and that you’ll visit a doctor or urologist soon.

Related info:

David Sobel, MD, JD

Dr. Sobel is a Colorado-based urologist and Director of the Denver Center for Men’s Health. His areas of expertise include men's sexual health and all areas of urology, including urologic oncology, treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy, stone disease and incontinence. Dr. Sobel was educated at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and completed his residency at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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