What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability of a man to get an erection that is hard enough and lasts long enough for sexual intercourse. Contrary to popular belief, erectile dysfunction affects men of all ages: young, middle-aged and elderly. It can touch anyone and does not discriminate by age, culture, religion, ethnicity or social status.
If you suspect you may have ED, the smart thing to do is visit your doctor. Thankfully, there are many forms of treatment available. A doctor may offer anything from medication, to surgery and even recommend certain lifestyle changes. Don’t worry, you’re neither the first nor the last man to experience erectile dysfunction symptoms. In fact, most men go through some degree of ED at least once in their lifetimes.
Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosis
For many men, talking about erectile dysfunction with their doctor is not an easy thing. Although these days the topic of erectile dysfunction is no longer taboo – it’s discussed openly by men, women, the media – it’s still very much a cause of embarrassment for many guys. Making a doctor’s appointment, sitting in a waiting room, discussing the details of your impotence with a complete stranger: the entire process can be intimidating.
Generally, a physical exam and answering a few questions about your medical history are all that’s needed to diagnose whether you suffer from erectile dysfunction and recommend some form of treatment.
However, research has shown that most men who are diagnosed with ED don’t follow through with their treatments. This may be due to a variety of reasons: high costs of medication, too embarrassed to buy prescription ED medicine at the pharmacy, or simply believing they can overcome the condition on their own, without drugs or counseling.
Main Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
Medical professionals (urologists) understand that erectile dysfunction is normally caused by problems of blood flow to the penis. Most of the time, this has to do with the arterial health of the blood vessels of your genitals. With age, your arteries become harder and narrower, making it more difficult for blood to flow to the penis and make it erect.
But sexual stimulation (getting hard and staying hard long enough to enjoy sexual intercourse) is actually much more complex. For things to work properly, the brain, nerves, blood vessels and penis must all work together. Should any one of these components fail to function optimally, your erection will be underwhelming.
Therefore, it’s commonly understood that the causes for ED can be either physical, psychological or a combination of both.
Some of the most common physical causes (which tend to affect older men) include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Clogged blood vessels
- Parkinson’s disease
- Hormonal disorders
- Smoking, alcohol and drug abuse
When it comes to younger patients, psychological problems are the likeliest reason for erectile dysfunction. These are less common, but still occur.
Some examples are:
- Personal fears
- Relationship issues
- Feelings of inadequacy
- History of sexual abuse
Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction
Depending on your medical history and the severity of your ED symptoms, your doctor may present various treatment options. Make sure you understand clearly the benefits and risks of each different treatment and ask your doctor the proper questions. Perhaps discuss it with your wife or girlfriend, as it will help make the decision easier.
For the majority of men with ED, improving their condition means improving the flow of blood to the penis. Oral medications offer an effective erectile dysfunction treatment for many men with ED.
Sildenafil and Tadalafil – the active ingredients found respectively in Viagra and Cialis – are the two most popular phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors for treating erectile dysfunction. They work by increasing nitric oxide (NO), a natural chemical produced by the body that relaxes and smooths the muscle cells in the blood vessels of the penis, making it easier for blood to flow and attain an erection in response to sexual arousal.
However, in cases where there are underlying emotional problems, prescription drugs will only work when combined with therapy. Furthermore, you might also consider making specific lifestyle changes. Keep in mind that the same bad habits that contribute to your erectile dysfunction may also be affecting your overall mental and physical health. Indeed, your ED symptoms may be your body trying to tell you it’s time to address these factors and start living healthier.
Here are a few lifestyle changes that will have an immediate positive impact not only on erectile dysfunction but also on your overall health:
- Drink less alcohol
- Stop smoking
- Eat healthier
- Get more exercise
- Sleep 7 to 9 hours each night
- Lose extra weight
- Therapy or counselling