What is erectile dysfunction? WebMD's pictures explain the symptoms, causes, and treatments, including medicine and alternative approaches. Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is a type of sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis. Men with erectile dysfunction (ED), or impotence, have trouble getting or keeping an erection. It is more common in older men. Learn about. Treatments for erectile dysfunction are much better than they used to be, and the problem often goes away. Food and Drug Administration. Artery reconstruction. A health care professional may prescribe you an oral medicine to help you get and maintain an erection. How high blood pressure can affect your sex life.