anonymous on August 26, 2011

Why do condoms give me erectile dysfunction?

I can’t hold an erection with a condom on. What do you suggest?

answered by David Sobel, MD, JD on August 26, 2011


Thank you for your question.

First, it’s very common for condoms to cause erection loss.A 2006 study in Sexual Health found that – over a three-month period – about 37% of men lost at least one erection when putting on a condom, or during sex with a condom. There are probably a few reasons for this…it may be the anxiety of putting a condom on during the excitement of sex, especially with a new partner. And some men are more turned on by touch. So, as a barrier, a condom may not provide enough sensation.

Of course, the temptation is not to use protection. But the risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) could result in much worse health problems. You can learn more about how to prevent STDs in our Expert Guide to STD Basics.

So, what can you do to help prevent erectile dysfunction (ED) resulting from condom use? You may need a different size condom. For example, one that’s too small may not allow enough blood to flow to the penis. Or, you may have more success with a different type or brand of condom, as some provide more sensitivity. Just make sure that, whatever you buy still protects you from STDsespecially if you’re not in a monogamous relationship with someone whose STD status you know.

Using a little bit of lubricant on the tip of the penis may help, too...just don’t get too lubed up or the condom may come off, or decrease sensation. Lubricant on the outside of the condom is important, as well...but, again, you want the right amount so that you have enough friction to trigger an orgasm.

Taking time for good foreplay can help, too...and as you become more comfortable with a partner, any performance anxiety usually goes away, which should also help your ED.

Thanks again for writing. If your problems continue, I would encourage you to check in with your doctor to make sure there isn’t some other issue that needs to be addressed.


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.

Related Q&A's

Is it possible to get STDs in a monogamous relationship?
My boyfriend is a quad. When I give him head, we leave his indwelling catheter that safe?
Can I pass genital herpes to a partner when I don’t have an outbreak?