Erectile dysfunction, previously called impotence, is defined as the inability to develop and maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse or activity. This definition comes from a consensus conference convened by teh National Institute of Health in 1993. Prior to this there were many different definitions of erectile dysfunction, which makes comparing research difficult.
Erectile dysfunction is considered to be a separate concern from premature ejaculation. Because all men will experience an inability to get or keep an erection at some point, what defines erectile dysfunction is in part how often or how long it happens. There is no universally agreed upon criteria for how consistent the problem has to be and for what duration it needs to be present to fulfill the definition, although three months is often used as a guideline.
Since part of the definition of erectile dysfunction includes the concept of satisfactory intercourse, it's worth noting that in most studies erectile dysfunction is defined based on a subjects response to a question related to their own perception of their erections, as opposed to asking a sexual partner.
In large part the result of new medications to treat erectile dysfunction, there has been a surge in research on erectile dysfunction. Recent studies have suggested that the prevalence of erectile dysfunction is as high as 1 in 5 men.
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