Pathophysiology of premature ejaculation

J Sex Med. 2011 Oct;8 Suppl 4:316-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02384.x.


Introduction: Although the characteristics of premature ejaculation (PE) are established, the exact aetiology is largely unknown. Genetic, neurobiological, pharmacological, psychological, urological and endocrine factors have all been proposed. In addition PE and erectile dysfunction are often co-morbid.

Aim: This article provides an overview of the proposed biological and psychological aetiologies of PE.

Methods: Review of the literature.

Main outcome measures: Current data on the pathophysiology of PE.

Results: This review shows that most of the proposed biological and psychological aetiologies of PE are not evidence-based and/or that attempts to confirm them have given conflicting results. There are good data to support roles for genetic and psychological factors, either causal, or secondary to PE for the latter, in lifelong PE. Conversely, more evidence-based data support the responsibility of opioid substance withdrawal, prostatic inflammation or hyperthyroidism in some cases of acquired PE, in addition to a probable role of psychological factors.

Conclusions: The determinants of PE are certainly complex and multifactorial, while each partner's reaction to the frustration caused by the sexual dysfunction may exacerbate or perpetuate it. It is important to understand, as far as possible, the aetiology in the individual patient to ensure appropriate assessment and treatment. It should be noted that identification of an aetiological factor does not necessarily mean the cause of the PE has been completely explained, and the patient may require a combination of treatment approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ejaculation / physiology*
  • Erectile Dysfunction / complications
  • Erectile Dysfunction / physiopathology
  • Erectile Dysfunction / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / complications
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / physiopathology*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / psychology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / complications
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology