Man sitting at the end of his bed appearing frustrated.

8 Signs and Symptoms That May Predict Erectile Dysfunction Later On

Erectile dysfunction affects as many as 30 million American men. Here are some early warning signs that you may be at an increased risk of developing this disorder. 


Unlike many other diseases and disorders, erectile dysfunction doesn’t usually strike without warning. While it affects as many as 30 million American men, most of those men experienced warning signs and symptoms of ED well before they found that they were no longer able to get and keep an erection suitable for intercourse.

As regular readers of this blog know, ED is often the result of certain underlying illnesses, both physiological and psychological. The very presence of those ailments serve as an indication that one’s risk of male impotence is significantly higher than it is in men who are healthy.

ED also is far more common in men whose lifestyles are essentially unhealthy. This means that those who smoke, drink heavily, abuse drugs, are overweight or even obese, eat unhealthy diets, and fail to exercise face a greater risk of developing ED than men with healthier lifestyles.

Being alert for some of these warning signs and reacting to them promptly can possibly spare you the heartbreak of ED or at least minimize the severity of its symptoms. This post reviews some of the most common signs and symptoms that are widely recognized as predictors of ED.

1. High Blood Pressure

Almost all of us have occasional spikes in blood pressure; that’s part of life in the pressurized world of the 21st century. However, a consistent pattern of elevated blood pressure readings could be a sign that you’re more likely to experience ED down the road.

The latest guidelines on blood pressure warn that readings above 130/80 put you in dangerous territory. That’s a change from the previous guidelines that put the upper limit at 140/90. Under the current guidelines, according to the American Heart Association Centers for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 46 percent of Americans age 20 and over suffer from high blood pressure.

Blood pressure rises when blood vessels — both arteries and veins — contract. Normal erectile function is difficult whenever robust blood flow is restricted, as it is in men with hypertension.

Diagram of an artery.

Failure to bring your blood levels of cholesterol under control can lead to a buildup of fatty plaques on the inner walls of arteries. 

2. Elevated Cholesterol Readings

The next time your doctor sends you for a blood test or actually conducts one in the office, pay special attention to your lipid levels. These include low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol; high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol; and total cholesterol. Total cholesterol should be 200 or less, and the higher the ratio of your HDL to LDL, the better.

High cholesterol readings put you at an increased risk of atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty plaques on artery walls, and the more clogged those arteries become, the less blood they can carry. Diminished blood flow to the penis leads to ED. Left untreated, this reduced blood flow can affect the heart and brain in the form of a heart attack or stroke, respectively.

3. Morning Erections Disappear

For men who regularly experience erections upon awakening in the morning, the absence of so-called morning wood is a definite warning sign. Unlike erections that occur during waking hours, morning wood and the erections that occur as you sleep aren’t the result of sexual arousal but rather reduced brain levels of noradrenaline, a hormone/neurotransmitter that keeps erections from occurring nonstop.

The very presence of morning wood is a reassuring sign that your equipment down there is in good working order, while the absence or sharp reduction of morning wood indicates you’re experiencing some sort of problem.

4. Sexual Desire Lessens

If you find that you no longer think — or dream — about sex as often as you have in the past, it could be a sign that psychological problems are reducing your libido, or sex drive. There’s usually no easy fix for depression or anxiety that’s interfering with your sex life. Popping an antidepressant can sometimes make matters worse. If you find yourself in this predicament, your best bet is to seek out psychological counseling, which could speed your return to normal.

5. Your Doctor Diagnoses Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult onset diabetes, indicates that your body is having difficulty processing blood sugar, or glucose. Unless your diabetes symptoms are well controlled, they will eventually take a serious toll on both blood flow and your nervous system, both of which play a key role in erectile function.

Men with diabetes are far more likely to develop ED than men who are nondiabetic. It’s estimated that fully half of all diabetic men who are 50 or over suffer from at least some degree of male impotence.

Diagram of a prostate with prostatitis.

Prostate disorders, including prostatitis, can lead to erectile dysfunction. 

6. You’re Suffering from a Prostate Disorder

Part of the male reproductive system, the walnut-sized prostate gland secretes the seminal fluid that carries sperm from the penis during ejaculation, a process that is in part facilitated by the prostate’s muscles.

Among the more common disorders of the prostate are benign prostatic hyperplasia, a noncancerous enlargement of the gland, and prostate cancer. While neither of these disorders is a direct cause of ED, treatments for prostate disorders often interfere with normal erectile function.

Men undergoing surgery for prostate cancer almost always experience at least a temporary inability to get and keep an erection, a disorder that in some cases may become permanent.

7. Inflammation of the Gums

Left untreated, gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, often leads to full-blown gum disease, also known as periodontitis. Inflammation, almost anywhere in the body, can in time spread to other parts of the body with invariably negative effect.

In the case of gum disease, its inflammatory effects often spread to the blood vessels, which in turn impairs their normal function. And anything that compromises blood flow eventually adversely affects erectile function.

8. You’re Experiencing Sleep Problems

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your overall well-being. Failure to get eight or so hours of sleep each night makes it hard for your body to function at its very best. And, not surprisingly, a lack of sleep can have a decidedly negative effect on your ability to get and keep an erection.

If you find it difficult to get all the sleep you need, consult your doctor, who may well refer you to a sleep specialist if your problem is particularly challenging. Hopefully, with professional help, you will once again be able to get the sleep needed to eliminate any problems with your sexual function.

Maybe an ED Drug Could Help

An insufficient flow of blood to the penis is by far the most common cause of ED. And as we’ve noted in this post, vascular problems can arise from a wide array of causes. If your ED symptoms are caused by compromised blood flow, Viagra or one of the other oral ED drugs known as PDE5 inhibitors should be able to help.

Many ED drug users have found that ordering their drugs online from saves them both time and money. To see how eDrugstore might be able to serve you, check out its Erectile Dysfunction page.

Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+