National Impotence Day - 14 February

On 14 February, many of us will celebrate St. Valentine's Day. But this date also marks National Impotence Day, an annual health event to raise awareness of erectile dysfunction (ED) among the public and health professionals.

To help health professionals in primary care, we have provided a short overview of ED and it's management. We have also gathered some further resources at the bottom of the page including key articles within Healthcare Republic, a printable patient fact sheet and links to other useful websites.

Nurses can also benefit from registering with NEED (Nurse Education in Erectile Dysfunction). Details of this distance-learning programme are also provided at the bottom of this page.


What is ED?
ED can be defined as the persistent or recurrent inability to attain or maintain an erection sufficient to complete sexual intercourse or other chosen sexual activities.

What is the impact of ED?
It is estimated that ED affects approximately one in 10 men. The condition is more commonly found in men over 40 years and the incidence increases as the patient becomes older.

What are the causes of ED?
Whilst an age-related increase may suggest it is a natural condition of ageing, most experts believe it is the risk factors of ED that are more likely to be age-related. These include hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. As such, it would seem that ED could be a symptom of the underlying disease.

Erections at any time other than during attempted intercourse, the problem may be psychological.

Other possible causes include neurological disease, thyroid dysfunction, hypogonadism and Peyronie’s disease.

What are the treatments for ED and who is eligible for NHS treatment?
All treatments should be accompanied by careful and sensitive counselling. Reversible causes should be identified and treated, for example newly diagnosed diabetes. Any patients who smoke should be advised to stop.

Any choice of treatment should be made after a full discussion with the patient.
There are a number of pharmacological treatments:

Non-pharmacological treatments such as vacuum erection devices and penile implants are also appropriate for some patients.

For men with low serum testosterone levels, testosterone replacement may be an effective treatment.

NHS prescriptions for the treatment of ED are only available for men who have:

  • Prostate cancer
  • Kidney failure
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Single gene neurological disease
  • Spina bifida
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Polio
  • Severe pelvic injury
  • Radial pelvic surgery
  • Prostatectomy
  • Severe distress due to impotence (by specialist assessment only)
  • Those men who were already receiving treatment for impotence on 14 September 1998 (the date on which sildenafil was launched and the criteria for NHS prescriptions were introduced)

The information on this page is a simple overview of ED. To assist with more detailed information we have gathered some essential resources from Healthcare Republic and various other websites. Please note that neither Healthcare Republic nor Pfizer Limited are responsible for the content of external links.

Nurse Education in Erectile Dysfunction (NEED)
The NEED programme provides nurses with a comprehensive overview of the aetiology, epidemiology, treatment and management of ED.

NEED is a distance-learning course, comprising four practical, concise modules.

Participants have a minimum of two months to study the course and will gain access to online support during this time. Validation for the course takes place during a one-day workshop.

To learn more about NEED, contact the secretariat on 020 7632 1800 or email and sign up for a local introductory session (two hours).

MIMS Handbook of Urology
The MIMS Handbook of Urology is a free 112-page handbook containing summary information on ED and a number of other common benign and malignant urological conditions, and common infections and infestations. The Handbook also covers routine investigations and drug treatments.
Order your copy now by email

Useful articles
Erectile dysfunction clinical focus
Treating erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction as a marker of cardiovascular risk in men
MRCGP exam update: Treatment of erectile dysfunction

Information for patients
MIMS fact sheet on erectile dysfunction

Other web resources
British Association for Sexual and Relationship Therapy
International Society for Sexual Medicine
Sexual Dysfunction Association
The Men’s Health Forum

Date of preparation: February 2007

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