The prostate (prostate gland) is a unique male organ dependent on the production of androgens. It is located under the bladder, surrounds the urethra, and produces seminal plasma, which is part of the seminal fluid. Beneath it are also located the Cowper's glands, which moisten the urethral canal, and the spongy body of the penis.

When any pathology develops, the shape of the gland often changes; it starts to press on all surrounding tissues, and the inflammatory process can easily spread to adjacent areas. Therefore, patients often worry whether prostate problems can cause erectile dysfunction.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and Erectile Dysfunction

BPH is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate tissue without affecting nearby organs or a tendency to metastasize, leading to an increase in the organ's volume. This is a fairly common reproductive system disease, diagnosed in more than 80% of men aged 80 years.

It was previously known that the most common symptoms of this disorder were dysuric disorders or lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). However, in recent years, more and more studies have confirmed the link between the development and progression of erectile dysfunction in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia. Several factors can be the cause, related both to changes in the prostate and to general indicators:

  • Compression of the blood vessels and nerves leading to the penile tissues;
  • Concurrent chronic prostatitis;
  • Age-related hypogonadism (reduced function of the sex glands).

The most common complication observed is the first scenario – the enlarged prostate starts compressing, firstly, the blood vessels. As a result, the flow of arterial blood to the cavernous bodies responsible for an adequate erection decreases – it becomes impossible for a man to achieve full penile rigidity. Secondly, due to the compression of nerve fibers, the sensitivity of the sexual organs and sexual satisfaction decrease, making it difficult for a man to derive satisfaction from sexual intercourse.

Prostatitis and Erectile Dysfunction

Prostatitis is an inflammatory disease of the prostate gland. Among the aspects that can cause chronic prostatitis and, consequently, erectile dysfunction, it's worth noting:

  • Repeated perineal trauma, often due to the nature of professional sports (horseback riding, cycling);
  • Disordered or excessively active sexual life;
  • Abuse of fatty, fried food;
  • Chronic alcoholism;
  • Sexually transmitted infections;
  • Notably, intracellular pathogens (chlamydia and mycoplasma);
  • Viral infection (e.g., human papillomavirus (HPV));
  • Autoimmune pathologies;
  • Chemical damage to tissues due to urine reflux.

Thus, there are also several factors in the development of erectile dysfunction in prostatitis:

  • Damage to the endothelium of the vessels (for example, by ethanol or infectious agents);
  • Depressive disorders due to alcoholism;
  • Inability to focus on sexual activity due to constant and exhausting pain;
  • Stress, discomfort due to the presence of the disease itself.

Due to endothelial damage, the flow of arterial blood to the cavernous bodies of the penis is disrupted, reducing its rigidity during erection. The other points imply a psychogenic etiology of dysfunction – the man cannot concentrate, is distracted, and does not get satisfaction from sexual activity due to constant thoughts of pain.

Prostate Cancer and Erectile Dysfunction

Prostate cancer is a very common malignant disease, which, according to some urologists, affects every seventh man in the world. Such a serious pathology, of course, affects a person's attitude towards sexual activity and can also cause organic erectile dysfunction:

  • Focus exclusively on medical examinations and the course of medication, other aspects of life seem to lose their importance;
  • The prostate gland can significantly enlarge due to the growing tumor and compress the surrounding vessels and nerves;
  • Problems with sexual function become secondary for both the patient and their doctor;
  • Emergence of problems and difficulties in interpersonal relationships with a partner due to the severe diagnosis;
  • Fear of injury during sexual intercourse, possible recurrence, or even transmission of a malignant disease sexually (which is, of course, completely unfounded);
  • Taking serious medications (chemotherapy), undergoing radiation therapy can negatively affect erection;
  • Consequences of surgical intervention – during the process, both vessels and nerves leading to the sexual organs can be damaged.

However, most fears and worries are groundless – very often, if the genital area is not damaged, cancer is not a contraindication to adequate sexual activity. A healthy partner cannot catch cancer from the patient, and worsening condition is often not related to the frequency of sexual acts. However, a mandatory consultation with a specialist is required – in some particularly severe cases or when the urethral excretory function is impaired, it is advisable to temporarily refrain from sexual contacts.

Thus, the answer to the question "can prostate problems cause erectile dysfunction?" is yes, they can. However, erectile dysfunction in BPH, prostatitis, or cancer most often arises from psychogenic causes – excessive anxiety, depressive disorders, constant thoughts about one's illness. The organic component mainly lies in the symptom of prostate enlargement (compression of vessels and nerves) and the consequences of drug or surgical treatment.