Speaking About the Unspeakable on National Impotence Day

Impotence (otherwise known as erectile dysfunction) is probably the one urological condition that men find more embarrassing to talk about than any other. 

It can have a disproportionately negative effect on your life, as it can transform the relationship you have with your sexual partner and make a profound difference to your confidence and mental state. 


Not being able to maintain an erection is also a lot more common than you might think. Just about half of men between the ages of 40 and 70 will suffer from the problem to some degree. 

The Urology Foundation seeks to inform men of how common it is and how much treatment there is to help. This would ultimately break down the stigma surrounding the condition and ensure that more men get treatment more quickly.

We spoke to our TUF funded expert, Jai Seth, a Specialist Registrar in Urology at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, who told us that impotence is one of the greatest fears among the men that he treats.

“Erectile function can be very important for men. It affects their body image, manliness, fertility and virility. They can become low and depressed. For a couple in an active relationship previously enjoying an active sex life it can be devastating, affecting their intimacy and their relationship as a couple.”

Embarrassment surrounding impotence can be very dangerous. Erectile dysfunction can be caused by many different existing conditions such as treatment for prostate cancer, heart disease, diabetes, psychological issues or even cycling. 

It can also serve as an indicator of more threatening diseases. Being impotent may be a sign of all kinds of cardiovascular disease, like coronary heart disease or a stroke. 

Professor Mike Kirby, GP, specialising in erectile dysfunction, believes that it is very important not to look at the condition in isolation and describes the penis as “a barometer of cardiovascular health.” 

He told TUF: “We did a study of 200 men in our practice who had suffered a heart attack and 68% of them had experienced erectile dysfunction previously. It always seems to come as a surprise that ED can be a sign of other things. People need to realise it is not an age thing. Men should be aware that if there is deterioration in erectile function they should be talking to someone about it.”

Do you or your partner suffer from erectile dysfunction? Don’t be embarrassed, find out how you can get help from your GP. 


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