Erectile dysfunction in the elderly: epidemiology, etiology and approaches to treatment

J Urol. 2003 Jun;169(6):1999-2007. doi: 10.1097/01.ju.0000067820.86347.95.


Purpose: Erectile dysfunction is experienced at least some of the time by most men who have reached 45 years of age, and it is projected to affect 322 million men worldwide by 2025. The prevalence of erectile dysfunction is high in men of all ages and increases greatly in the elderly.

Materials and methods: This paper reviews the epidemiology of erectile dysfunction with an emphasis on the experience of older men, normal age related changes in the structure and function of the penis that may contribute to increased risk with age, how the accumulation of risk factors with age may contribute to the high prevalence of the disease in older men, and established and emerging therapies. The normal aging process and age related risk factor accumulation contribute to the increased prevalence of erectile dysfunction in the elderly.

Results: Remarkable progress has been made in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. At present inhibition of phosphodiesterase 5 with oral agents such as sildenafil would appear to be the initial treatment of choice. These drugs have been shown to be safe and effective, and sildenafil has demonstrated efficacy in patients with many of the comorbidities observed in older men with erectile dysfunction. New treatments, in particular transfection with genes for key mediators of erectile function that are known to be down-regulated in elderly men, also hold promise.

Conclusions: Further research into the neural, vascular and molecular mechanisms involved in penile erection will lead to the development of even safer, more effective and more convenient therapies for men with erectile dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Erectile Dysfunction / etiology
  • Erectile Dysfunction / physiopathology*
  • Erectile Dysfunction / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Penile Erection / physiology*