It is described as a disruption of sexual function in the male thatprevents satisfactory intercourse, and it is believed that probably no other medical condition is as potentially frustrating, humiliating, or devastating to a man. At times the problem may be situational i.e. the person is not able to achieve erection with a specific partner (say regular partner or wife) but is able to have sustained erection while masturbating or with some other partner.

According to a survey every man (above 40 years) at least once in a lifetime has  had a fear of being impotent and in fact 50 – 70% of men beyond 75 years of age are impotent. In young adults, around 10% of men suffer with impotency.

It may be manifested in the following ways:

  • Loss of sexual desire.
  • Inability to achieve orgasm or erection.
  • Inability to sustain erection.
  • Unable to penetrate to complete the sexual act.

But how does one achieve erection?

The penis contains spongy and cylindrical compartments (known as corpora cavernosa), which stretch along the length of the penis and are surrounded by a membrane (called the tunica albuginea). The spongy tissue contains muscles, blood spaces, veins, and arteries. The urinary canal (urethra), in which the urine and the semen flows, pass along the underside of these spongy compartments.

When a person is sexually aroused by physical or psychological means there is a rush of blood into the open spaces of the spongy cylinders. The accumulated blood generates pressure inside these spongy cylinders causing the penis to expand (erection). The outer membrane helps to trap the blood in the cylindrical compartment thus helping in sustaining erection. After the ejaculation, muscles in the penis contract thereby, stopping the inflow of blood and opening the outflow channels. This makes the penis flaccid.