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What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is a relatively common condition that affects men of all ages

What are the symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED)?

If you cannot achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sex, you may have a medical condition called ED.

Men can experience symptoms in different ways:

  • Some cannot achieve an erection.

  • Others may achieve an erection, but not firm enough for having sex or they may lose the erection before or during sex. 

For some men with ED, it can be difficult to achieve or maintain an erection every time they try to have sex. For others, symptoms can happen just once in a while.

ED is a common medical condition that has nothing to do with masculinity. 

Research indicates that one in three Irish men have experienced difficulty achieving an erection, 1 in 5 indicated they experience ED regularly, so don’t worry – if you’re experiencing ED symptoms you are not alone. You can take action to get help.

Many men ignore their ED symptoms for years, because they are too embarrassed to see a healthcare professional, but the symptoms of ED can be treated in most cases.

Learn more about the potential causes of ED

ED facts and figures

Do not ignore ED symptoms – talk to your pharmacist or make an appointment with your doctor for a health check-up

What causes erectile dysfunction?

A common physical cause of erectile dysfunction is reduced blood flow to the penis

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is generally due to physical causes, although psychological issues and some types of medication can also cause ED.


The main physical cause of ED is not enough blood flowing into the penis, so a man cannot achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sex.


This happens because the small blood vessels that supply the penis during an erection become blocked or narrow.


Smoking, high cholesterol and lack of exercise can cause this problem, as can high blood pressure and diabetes.


ED can sometimes be an early warning sign of underlying health conditions even if you feel healthy.


While not all men with ED will have other health problems, it is always best to talk to a pharmacist or see your doctor who can fully assess your health and treat any condition you might have that could be causing ED symptoms.


Learn about the link between ED and your health

How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?

Men who are unsure if their erection problems are symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED) can benefit from talking discreetly with a pharmacist.

The pharmacist will not give you a physical examination or ask you personal questions about your sex life – they will just ask you a few questions about: 

  • Your symptoms

  • Your general physical health

  • Any medicine you might be taking

This is to confirm that you have ED symptoms and to decide if VIAGRA connect is suitable for you.

If VIAGRA connect is right for you, the pharmacist will explain how to take it correctly for the best results. You should also see your doctor as soon as possible within 6 months of your first purchase of VIAGRA connect to get a health check-up.

If VIAGRA connect isn’t right for you, the pharmacist will refer you to your doctor who can discuss alternative treatment options with you in more detail.

Learn more about the potential causes of erectile dysfunction

Erection problems can be treated in most cases, so take action and get help by talking to your pharmacist in confidence today about VIAGRA connect.


Many men live with ED symptoms for years and don’t get help.
Talk to your pharmacist - take action

Can the symptoms of erectile dysfunction be treated?

Making a few lifestyle changes could help reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) symptoms:

  • Losing weight through healthy eating

  • Taking regular exercise 

  • Reducing stress

  • Stopping smoking

  • Moderating alcohol intake and avoiding recreational drugs

As well as these lifestyle changes, you can ask your pharmacist or doctor for more details about the following ED treatments which are available:

  • Oral medicines (taken by mouth), such as VIAGRA connect

  • Injectable medicines

  • Devices and implants

  • Psychosexual counselling

  • Specialist help from a urologist

Learn how changing your lifestyle can help reduce the risk of ED symptoms

Erectile dysfunction and your health

Erectile dysfunction can sometimes be caused by different health conditions 

  • Heart and circulation problems can reduce the flow of blood to the penis

  • Low levels of the male hormone testosterone

  • Injury to or disease of the penis or surrounding areas

  • Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, or relationship issues

  • Surgery to the penis or the surrounding areas (e.g. prostate surgery)

  • Lifestyle issues, such as stress, smoking, alcohol and recreational drug abuse

Learn about ED treatment options

ED symptoms can be caused by a variety of medical conditions. Talk to your pharmacist to find out more 

Medical conditions that can increase the risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED) symptoms:

Cardiovascular disease (CVD)

CVD can lead to the build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, narrowing them and causing damage. The smaller blood vessels found in the penis are among the first affected. Erections are less easily achieved or may be less firm than before because there is less blood flowing into the penis.


Diabetes happens when the body cannot produce or respond to the hormone insulin properly, resulting in too much sugar (glucose) in the blood. High blood glucose levels can damage nerves and blood vessels, including those needed for erections.

High blood pressure (hypertension)

Hypertension puts blood vessels under extra strain. The arteries narrow and thicken, so less blood flows into the penis.

High cholesterol

High levels of cholesterol can clog up blood vessels. This may reduce blood flow to the penis so there’s not enough for an erection to happen.

Mental health conditions

Most cases of ED have a physical cause. Sometimes, however, psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety can cause ED symptoms, or make them worse.


Certain medicines for other health conditions can cause ED symptoms.Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you notice any unwanted side effects from medicines you may be taking.

Prostate surgery

The prostate gland sits just under the bladder, next to nerves that make an erection happen. Surgery on the prostate can damage these nerves.

Talking about erectile dysfunction together

Select how to talk to your partner about


How to talk about your erection problems with your partner

Like most issues couples face in life, it is always better to face them together. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is no different. The sooner you discuss it, the sooner you can get your love life back on track.

Ignoring ED symptoms and avoiding sex can lead to greater misunderstanding. It is important to remember that ED is a medical condition that can be treated in most cases. It’s nobody’s fault.

ED can be a difficult subject to talk about, so some men may withdraw and refuse to talk about it. The wall of silence surrounding the condition often leaves a man’s partner imagining all sorts of things.

You can reassure your partner by telling them that ED is a medical condition and nothing more – that it’s not their fault, it has nothing to do with attraction and they’ve done nothing wrong to cause this. This is a situation you can improve by working together as a team.

You may feel awkward about starting up a conversation with your partner about ED symptoms you are experiencing, but you’ll feel more at ease once you’ve discussed it.

When you start the conversation, remember:

  • ED is a common medical condition. Research indicates that one in three Irish men have experienced difficulty achieving an erection, 1 in 5 indicated they experience ED regularly

  • Stay positive: ED symptoms are treatable in most cases

  • Choose a neutral place (not the bedroom) to talk and approach the subject in a calm and relaxed manner

  • Remember that you are both in this together

Like any challenge in life, you are both stronger when you work together

Talking about erectile dysfunction together His problems Mobile

Talking to your partner about his erection problems

If your partner has erection problems, it can be difficult to know how to start the conversation.

It is a good idea to talk about erectile dysfunction (ED) for lots of reasons, so take some time now to find out why, when and how.

What's causing this problem?

ED is much more common than you might think. Research indicates that one in three Irish men have experienced difficulty achieving an erection, 1 in 5 indicated they experience ED regularly.


The most common underlying medical conditions that are linked to ED and can cause ED symptoms are:


– Heart disease

– High blood pressure

– Diabetes


Your partner might be experiencing erection problems regularly or just occasionally. In either case, you should not ignore the issue as it can be a sign of underlying health issues.


He refuses to talk about his erection problems

If ignored, ED can create a lot of tension in a relationship and drive a wedge between you.


Some couples avoid talking about sex and intimacy, but in the case of ED, this is exactly the kind of conversation you need to have. Do not wait for your partner to mention it.

It is unlikely he will talk about it before you do, because men tend to avoid talking about health or sexual problems. A lot of men are concerned that talking about it may make the problem worse when actually, talking about it can help.

Is it my fault?

Many people whose partners have ED symptoms think they might be to blame. They might be asking themselves; “Does he still find me attractive?”, “Is he seeing someone else?” or “Is our sex life over?”.

If both of you ignore the problem, it’s more likely these thoughts will eat away at your confidence and self-esteem. If you do not have the conversation, feelings of loneliness and even resentment or suspicion may only increase and further damage your relationship.


Remember that ED symptoms are linked to underlying health problems in most men, so it is important to start the conversation sooner rather than later, because it is highly likely that he won’t.

Nobody is to blame

As wonderful as relationships can be, they are not perfect all the time. You might have been having difficulties anyway and realising that your partner has erection problems might make things feel worse.


Always try to keep the tone positive and upbeat, rather than accusing or blaming. Keep in mind that ED is a health condition. Even if your relationship is going well, staying positive can be a challenge if the conversation never happens – that’s why talking about it is so important.

Choose your moment

So, you’ve made the decision to talk to him about his erection problems. What now? How, where and when should you start the conversation?


Choose a time when you know you are both free from other distractions. Do not have the conversation while you are getting ready to go out, during a meal or driving in the car, for example. Make sure you have the conversation when you will not be interrupted by children, family, visitors, phone calls or anything else.


Choose a place that is neutral, quiet and private. Do not have the conversation in the bedroom, or when he is distracted by domestic jobs or work, for example. Avoid times when he might feel exposed and vulnerable, such as getting ready for bed or when he is taking a bath or shower.

What should you say?

Start any conversation with ‘I’ or ‘We’, for example, “I’m worried that you aren’t feeling well”, or “We need to talk about your health, I’m really worried about it”.


Avoid saying “You need to recognise that you’ve got a problem” or “Don’t you find me attractive anymore?”, as it may be too confrontational.

What do you do if he will not listen?

Some men find it very difficult to talk about erection problems. Even if you have opened the conversation very carefully, he could close down.


If this happens, you should accept that he is not receptive right now, but do say that you both need to talk soon. This is the point where you could mention the health issues associated with ED symptoms.


You could say: “I’m just worried that you might have some underlying health issues”. He may not accept your concerns, but once you’ve mentioned that it is his health that is concerning you, he may start thinking about his symptoms in a different way.

What do you do when he does start to talk?

He could respond right away or days later. He might ask you why you are worried about his health. Most people would be concerned if someone who cared about them thought they might have underlying health problems.


Most men will find it easier to cope with addressing erection problems if they understand that it has nothing to do with their masculinity. You already know that the majority of men with ED symptoms may have underlying health issues, so your partner might begin to realise that his erection problems may not just be in his head.

Stay positive

Having the ED conversation should mean the beginning of something better for both of you.

Even though erection problems are mostly caused by underlying health conditions, emotional issues like depression, anxiety and stress can also have the same effect. Either way, ED symptoms can cause damage to relationships and should be investigated as soon as possible. Together you can take action to get help.

Like any challenge in life, you are both stronger when you work together

Select how to talk to your partner about

Myths about erectile dysfunction

Can you separate erectile dysfunction (ED) fact from fiction?


ED is only a problem for men aged over 60

While ED does become more common as men age, it can affect men of all ages. Research indicates that one in three Irish men have experienced difficulty achieving an erection, 1 in 5 indicated they experience ED regularly.

What is ED?
ED is a reflection of manhood or sex drive

ED has nothing to do with masculinity. It can occur as a result of underlying health conditions. If you experience ED symptoms, talk to your pharmacist or make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your general health.

What causes ED?
ED has nothing to do with other health problems

ED can result from one or more of the following: physical health conditions, psychological conditions or from taking certain medications. If you have symptoms of ED, you should talk to your pharmacist or make an appointment to see your doctor.

What causes ED?

Treatments for erectile dysfunction

VIAGRA connect is available without a prescription to help men with erectile dysfunction (ED). It is available to buy from the pharmacy.

Oral treatments (medicine taken by mouth)

Oral treatments for ED symptoms work by temporarily relaxing blood vessels in the penis. Relaxing these blood vessels helps increase blood flow, so an erection can happen.

Vacuum pumps

Vacuum pumps work by a man putting his penis inside a plastic tube and then pumping the air out of it. This creates a vacuum that makes the penis fill with blood and become erect. Putting a rubber ring around the base of the penis keeps the blood in place, so an erection can be kept for around 30 minutes.

Injectable treatments

Injectable treatments are available on prescription. A nurse or doctor would demonstrate how to inject directly into the penis, or would place a small pellet inside the urethra (the tube that goes from the bladder all the way to the tip of the penis). An erection normally occurs within 5–15 minutes after application. How long the erection is kept depends on the dose.

Hormone therapy

If a man’s ED symptoms are caused by conditions related to hormones, such as low levels of testosterone, they will be referred to an endocrinologist by their doctor who may prescribe hormone replacement therapy to restore normal levels.

Penile implants

If all other treatments fail to help with ED symptoms, a doctor may recommend surgery for a penile implant.

The sooner you take action to get help, the sooner you can get your love life back on track. Talk to your pharmacist about treatment options for ED symptoms or make an appointment to see your doctor

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