Erectile dysfunction, otherwise known as impotence, is a relatively common disorder, which affects many aspects of a man’s life. In this article, you will find some basic information about ED and its causes, as well as the ways to treat it.
Having an erection is a natural ability of a male body. It normally occurs when a man is sexually stimulated and, as a result, his penis receives nerve signals from the brain. Responding to these signals, the muscles within the arteries of the penis relax, which causes more blood flow through the penis. Therefore, the penis gets hard. This usually lasts until the sexual activity is completed.
Understanding Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) means that the ability to have an erection is party or completely lost. This condition is also known as impotence.
Erectile dysfunction is caused by poor blood flow in the penis, while a man is sexually stimulated.
The symptoms of ED are not usually the same for all men, as they may vary depending on what is causing it. Sometimes, a man is incapable of getting an erection at all. It is also quite common that a man does get an erection but not hard enough for having sex. Some men might also get a hard erection but lose it before or during sexual activity.
A man can have erectile dysfunction at any age, but the chances are higher in men older than 65. There are several possible causes of ED, such as a health condition, lifestyle issue or psychological problem.
Health conditions that may lead to erectile dysfunction include the following.
- High blood pressure. The blood vessels can be damaged by high blood pressure, which slows blood flow to the penis.
- This disease may increase the risk of ED, since high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and nerves in the penis.
- High blood cholesterol. If there is too much cholesterol in the blood, it can build up in the walls of the arteries of the penis, which, over time, causes the blood vessels to narrow, and the blood flow becomes slowed down or blocked.
- Nervous system disorder. Such conditions as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries increase the risk of erectile dysfunction, as these disorders may interfere with nerve signals between the brain and the penis.
- Injury or surgery in the pelvic area may also lead to ED because they can damage nerves and blood vessels going to the penis. This mostly happens after certain types of prostate surgery.
- Low levels of the male hormone. A testosterone deficiency in the blood can affect a man’s desire for sex, as well as his ability to get an erection. Men with type 2 diabetes are likely to have low testosterone.
- Erectile dysfunction may often occur as a side effect of certain drugs, including:
- Cancer chemotherapies, e.g. Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide)
- High blood pressure treatment medications – diuretics, such as Hydrodiuril (hydrochlorothiazide) and beta-blockers such as Inderal (propranolol)
- Medications for psychological disorders. For instance, anti-anxiety drugs, such as Paxil (paroxetine), antidepressants, such as Zoloft (sertraline), and anti-schizophrenia drugs, such as Seroquel (quetiapine)
- Tranquilizers, such as Valium (diazepam)
- Hormonal drugs for prostate cancer, e.g. Lupron (leuprolide)
- A medication called Propecia (finasteride) that treats an enlarged prostate (BPH) and certain types of male hair loss.
Lifestyle issues that may increase the risk of erectile dysfunction involve smoking, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, avoiding physical activity, and using recreational drugs (marijuana, cocaine or heroin).
Psychological problems that are sometimes followed by erectile dysfunction may include such emotional and personal issues as depression, stress (at work or at home), sexual performance anxiety, or relationship problems.
The process of diagnosing involves questions about health and physical examination. Some blood and urine tests may also be needed in order to determine if a man has any health condition causing erectile dysfunction.
In most cases, men with erectile dysfunction can improve their ability to get and maintain an erection. The type of treatment for ED depends on what is causing it.
If it is caused by a chronic condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, the best way to restore potency is to make sure a man is receiving proper treatment. It is important to keep blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol stable and at normal levels to prevent further damage to nerves and blood vessels in the penis.
In case a man is taking any medications that might be causing erectile dysfunction, he might need to change doses or switch to a different medication to improve his erection.
If a man has low testosterone for his age, according to the blood tests, his doctor may prescribe a testosterone gel (Androgel) or a testosterone skin patch (Androderm).
There are also treatments designed specifically for ED.
Regarding prescription medical treatment, there are PDE-5 inhibitors – the most commonly used oral medications. These are effective and easy to use. These drugs work by relaxing smooth muscle around arteries, allowing the penis to fill with blood. The PDE-5 inhibitors include Viagra (Sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil).
If oral medicines for ED do not work well, which is not actually common, there are a few alternatives. These are medication that are injected into the penis, such as Caverject (alprostadil), or MUSE (alprostadil), a small pellet inserted inside the opening at the end of the penis.
In addition, making some lifestyle changes may help to treat ED. For instance, a doctor might recommend a healthy diet to maintain a normal weight, regular exercise, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, and avoiding recreational drugs.
Sometimes, counselling is a good option, especially when ED is related to some emotional or relationship problems. A man and his partner may need to talk with a counselor to improve their sexual life. Combining medications and counseling may bring the best results.
Finally, if none of the treatments suggested above work, there are other options to help you. Sometimes, a man may need a surgery to place a semi-rigid or inflatable implant in his penis. Another way is to use a vacuum device placed around the penis. The device has to be pumped to create a vacuum that leads to an erection.