Erectile dysfunction is a common and distressing medical condition that is now highly amenable to treatment almost irrespective of the cause. Safe, non-surgical treatments with unequivocal efficacy are psychological therapy, intracorporeal injection of vasoactive drugs, transurethral vasodilators and oral sildenafil, all of which have been reported to have a 50-70% overall response rate. Vacuum constriction devices are acceptable for some, usually older patients and oral yohimbine is thought to have marginal efficacy. Local creams to induce or enhance erectile function are currently being investigated. There is no place for androgen supplementation unless the patient is profoundly hypogonadal. Treatment of hyperprolactinaemia is very effective but is a rare cause of erectile dysfunction. As intercourse may entail an unfamiliar level of physical activity, it is sensible to ensure that the patient is able to climb a flight or two of stairs comfortably without provoking undue breathlessness or chest pain and to provide suitable advice about technique before commencing treatment. Once it is clear to the patients that erectile dysfunction can be satisfactorily overcome, the long-term use of treatments to do so tends to wane. Thus, although the prospect of effective treatment for what had been for many a distressing life sentence has the potential to place new demands on the health service, there is no evidence that restrictions on prescribing will prove economically rational.