Sudden ED: Causes and Treatments

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. It is also one of the most common sexual health issues for men. Although the condition is not usually an emergent health concern, it may signify an underlying health issue, especially if it comes on suddenly.

A sudden case of ED might need a different approach when it comes to treatment. This article discusses how ED differs from sudden erectile dysfunction, and what to do if you experience this issue.

An illustration with treatment options for sudden erectile dysfunction

Illustration by Tara Anand for Verywell Health

What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to get or maintain a penile erection for satisfying sexual performance.

It is the most common of all male sexual disorders, estimated to affect one in 10 adult men.

Although erectile dysfunction is sometimes thought to only affect older men, there is evidence that the disease is becoming more common in men under 40. Several extensive studies estimate that erectile dysfunction affects as many as 30% of young men.

Symptoms of ED

Symptoms of erectile dysfunction can include:

  • The inability to achieve an erection
  • The ability to get an erection sometimes, but not every time you want to have sex
  • An erection that doesn’t last long enough for sex


The major causes of erectile dysfunction may be related to health issues, such as:

  • Medical conditions
  • Medications
  • Nerve damage
  • Hormonal issues
  • Psychological issues or mental health conditions

Certain medical conditions can lead to erectile dysfunction. Vascular disease is the most common medical cause of erectile dysfunction.

Vascular disease is a blood vessel condition that can limit blood flow to the penis shaft. When there is a shortage of blood, it can cause problems having or maintaining an erection.

Other medical conditions that can cause erectile dysfunction include:

Some medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, or other pharmaceuticals can cause issues with sexual function. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if your medications may be causing your erectile dysfunction.

Damaged nerves from medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, spinal cord damage, or prostate surgery may cause ED. Nerve damage can make it challenging to get or keep an erection.

Hormone levels, such as decreased testosterone levels, can play a role in erectile dysfunction and overall sex drive.

Psychological issues may also affect sexual performance. These can include:

Performance Anxiety

In some cases, performance anxiety can occur. If a person has failed to achieve an erection in the past, they may fear that it will happen again. Anxiety over these past experiences can cause embarrassment or guilt that they are not able to sexually satisfy their partner, which can prevent them from performing.

Can ED Happen Suddenly?

Erectile dysfunction usually develops over time, often due to circulatory or nervous system issues. However, it can occur unexpectedly and suddenly.

Sudden erectile dysfunction typically suggests a psychological problem or medication is causing the issue. Sudden ED is also known as sudden impotence.

What Is Sudden Erectile Dysfunction?

Sudden erectile dysfunction results in the same inability to have or maintain an erection. However, it is different because it comes on suddenly or seemingly out of nowhere, instead of slowly over time.

Erectile dysfunction that occurs suddenly usually stems from medication or a physiological issue. If you notice sudden erectile dysfunction, talk to your healthcare provider about any health changes, new medications, or stress or anxiety you are experiencing.

In some cases, you may find that more than one issue could be causing sudden ED.

Causes of Sudden ED

Sudden ED may be brought on by:

  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Medications such as sedatives, antidepressants, appetite suppressants, or blood pressure medication
  • Smoking or drug use

Psychological issues that may cause sudden erectile dysfunction include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Chronic stress
  • Performance anxiety or low self-esteem

Is Sudden ED Curable?

Each person’s ED case is different, so you should talk to your healthcare provider for guidance. You will want to make sure you don’t have any underlying medical conditions.

It’s also important to understand the treatment options that are available for ED.

Treatment Options for Sudden ED

If you believe you have sudden erectile dysfunction, start by talking with your provider to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Your treatment will likely depend on the factors that are causing your ED.

Several options may help you with sudden ED, such as:

  • Eating a healthier diet: A 2020 study of over 21,000 men found that diets which included a higher consumption of vegetables, nuts, fruits, legumes, fish, and other healthy fats, plus staying away from processed and red meats, reduced the risk of developing erectile dysfunction. You should also consider avoiding alcohol, as it can exacerbate or cause sudden erectile dysfunction.
  • Getting more physical activity and losing weight, if needed: Studies show that ED is closely linked to cardiovascular disease and can be related to a lack of physical exercise, obesity, and high blood pressure.
  • Treating any underlying conditions: Unmanaged diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease are some of the most common conditions leading to erectile dysfunction. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best ways to manage these conditions to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of erectile dysfunction.
  • Seeking mental health treatment: Work with your healthcare provider and a therapist or counselor to manage your mental health. Psychological issues such as depression and anxiety can cause sudden erectile dysfunction. Some antidepressants can also cause sexual dysfunction. If you think your medications are causing your ED, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage this.
  • Consulting a healthcare provider about ED medications: Some medications and treatments may help you with erectile dysfunction. Coverage for ED medications may depend on your insurance.


Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection long enough for satisfying sexual intercourse. It usually develops over the course of time, but it can come on suddenly. Reasons for this may include underlying conditions, certain medications, or psychological issues.

A Word From Verywell

Erectile dysfunction is not uncommon. However, dealing with ED can be frustrating and embarrassing, whether it happens suddenly or over time. Know that there are treatment options and lifestyle changes that may help you. Contact your healthcare provider for an examination and consultation so you can address your ED and improve your quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I be concerned about erectile dysfunction?

    You may be concerned about erectile dysfunction if you:

    • Get an erection sometimes, but not every time you want to have sex
    • Do not maintain an erection for long enough to have sex
    • Cannot have an erection at any time
  • What foods help ED?

    Studies have shown that men who eat more vegetables, nuts, fruits, legumes, fish, and other healthy fats, and stay away from processed and red meats, reduce the risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pastuszak AW. Current diagnosis and management of erectile dysfunctionCurr Sex Health Rep. 6(3):164-176. doi:10.1007/s11930-014-0023-9

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Erectile dysfunction.

  3. Nguyen HMT, Gabrielson AT, Hellstrom WJG. Erectile dysfunction in young men—a review of the prevalence and risk factorsSex Med Rev. 5(4):508-520. doi:10.1016/j.sxmr.2017.05.004

  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & causes of erectile dysfunction.

  5. Harvard Health. Impotence (erectile dysfunction).

  6. Rew KT, Heidelbaugh JJ. Erectile dysfunction. Am Fam Physician. 94(10):820-827.

  7. Zemishlany Z, Weizman A. The impact of mental illness on sexual dysfunctionAdv Psychosom Med. 29:89-106. doi:10.1159/000126626

  8. Bauer SR, Breyer BN, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, Giovannucci EL, Kenfield SA. Association of diet with erectile dysfunction among men in the health professionals follow-up studyJAMA Netw Open. 3(11):e2021701. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.21701

  9. Gerbild H, Larsen CM, Graugaard C, Areskoug Josefsson K. Physical activity to improve erectile function: a systematic review of intervention studiesSex Med. 6(2):75-89. doi:10.1016/j.esxm.2018.02.001

By Sarah Jividen, RN
Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a freelance healthcare journalist and content marketing writer at Health Writing Solutions, LLC. She has over a decade of direct patient care experience working as a registered nurse specializing in neurotrauma, stroke, and the emergency room.