What is erectile dysfunction?
LiveSecureTeam — The term erectile dysfunction covers a range of disorders, but usually refers to the inability to obtain an adequate erection for satisfactory sexual activity. Although erectile dysfunction, formerly called impotence, is more common in men older than 65 years, it can occur at any age. An occasional episode of erectile dysfunction happens to most men and is normal.
As men age, it’s also normal to experience changes in erectile function. Erections may take longer to develop, may not be as rigid or may require more direct stimulation to be achieved. Men may also notice that orgasms are less intense, the volume of ejaculate is reduced and recovery time increases between erections.
Erectile dysfunction occurs in 5% of all males above 40 years of age and this percentage increases with advancing age. When erectile dysfunction proves to be a pattern or a persistent problem, it can interfere with a man’s self-image as well as his and his partner’s sexual life. Erectile dysfunction may also be a sign of a physical or emotional problem that requires treatment.
The symptoms of erectile dysfunction include:
Erections that are too soft for sex.
Erections that last only briefly.
An inability to achieve erections.
These symptoms may occur every time sex is initiated or only some of the time.
Nonphysical causes may account for impotence. They may include psychological problems like stress, anxiety and fatigue. Impotence is also an occasional side effect of psychological problems such as depression.
Feelings that you express toward your sexual partner — or that are expressed by your sexual partner — such as resentment, hostility or lack of interest also can be a factor in erectile dysfunction.
Nerve damage from longstanding diabetes (diabetic neuropathy), disease, trauma or injury can also cause erectile dysfunction.
Cardiovascular disorders affecting the blood supply to the pelvis can also result in erectile dysfunction. It is also important to realise that erectile dysfunction can signal an underlying risk for cardiovascular disease.
Certain prescription medications used for treating depression and blood pressure can cause erectile dysfunction. If you develop erectile dysfunction shortly after starting a new drug, the drug is most likely the cause of your problem. In some cases, erectile dysfunction may not occur until you have taken a drug for several months. If you have erectile dysfunction and you think it may be due to a medication that you are taking, do not stop taking the medication without first seeking advice from your doctor.
Though prostate cancer itself is not a cause of erectile dysfunction, treatments for the disease can cause the problem. These include surgery to remove the entire prostate gland, radiation therapy, whether by external beam or radioactive seed implants, cryosurgery (freezing cancerous tissue) and horrmone therapy.
A traumatic spinal cord injury or fractures that injure the spinal cord cause also result in problems getting good erections.
Erections rely on nerves functioning properly and multiple sclerosis (MS) impairs nerve functioning, making erectile dysfunction one of the most common symptoms of MS reported by men.
The most common hormonal cause of erectile dysfunction is hypogonadism, or testicles that don’t produce enough testosterone. More rarely, an abnormally high level of prolactin, a hormone that can lower testosterone levels, is to blame.
Heavy drinking can make matters worse. For one thing, it can inhibit sexual reflexes by dulling the central nervous system. Drinking large amounts of alcohol over a long period of time can also damage the liver, leading to a hormonal imbalance (in this case, raising levels of oestrogen, a female sex hormone normally present in small amounts in men).
Illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, barbiturates, and amphetamines can trigger problems by acting on the central nervous system in the same way that alcohol does.
It’s normal to experience erectile dysfunction on occasion. But if erectile dysfunction lasts longer than two months or is a recurring problem, one needs to see the doctor for a physical examination.
Although erectile dysfunction is seen as a personal or embarrassing problem, it’s important to seek treatment. In many cases, erectile dysfunction can be successfully treated. The doctor will take a detailed medical history to determine whether this is due to an physical illness or due to psychological problems. Similarly, a detailed examination of the body including examination of the sexual organs will be done. Blood tests may be done to exclude diabetes or high cholesterol. Specialised tests may be done in specific instances to locate a problem in the structure and function of the penis.
A wide variety of options exist for treating erectile dysfunction. They include everything from medications and simple mechanical devices to surgery and psychological counselling. The cause and severity of the condition are important factors in determining the best treatment or combination of treatments.
Erectile dysfunction due to a psychological problem is treated with much care. Usually the problem is due to performance anxiety, guilt, depression or a fear of failure. The patient is explained that this only worsens the problem. Sex education helps correct misinformation and ignorance about normal sexual practice. In married couples, discussing the problem with both partners may help the doctor to arrive at the root cause of anxiety or performance failure. These treatment sessions are usually time-consuming and slow.
The psychological treatment can be supplemented with the help of medicines that stimulate erection. These can be taken orally like sildenafil (viagra) or others that can be injected into the penis like papaverine or alprostadil, a synthetic prostaglandin. For men with low levels of male sex hormone, testosterone, this hormone may need to be supplemented.
Surgery may also be used to correct erectile dysfunction caused by vascular blockages. In some cases that do not satisfactorily respond to medicines, erections can be achieved with the help of appliances like vacuum devices or the insertion of implants into the penis by an operation.
Limit or avoid the use of alcohol and other similar drugs
Both smoking and erectile dysfunction have often been associated – individually – with plaque build-up in the arteries, called atherosclerosis. The plaque obstructs blood flow through vessels, causing a host of circulatory problems throughout the body, such as erectile dysfunction. So, if you want to perform well in the bed, stop smoking.
Scientific studies have shown that men who exercise 3-5 hours a week have 30% less risk of having erectile dysfunction (impotence). The cardiovascular system is responsible for erectile function, so problems with circulation and heart disease often show up early as erectile dysfunction. Exercise, especially walking, running, biking and other cardiovascular exercises, reduces the risk of heart disease and maintains circulation.
Stress related to a job, marriage, or finances is a common cause of erection problems. Ongoing stress may result in erectile dysfunction. So, de-stress yourself by meditating or doing yoga.
Insufficient sleep and sleep disturbances make you feel low and lethargic. So, take proper rest and sleep for at least 7-8 hours a day to feel energetic and to reduce the episodes of erectile dysfunction.
Performance anxiety is where a person has an anticipation of some sort of problem occurring in the sexual act. As a consequence of which they develop a sense of anxiety, which often translates into an inability to achieve a good erection or an inability to go ahead and have sex. So, cut out anxiety and depression by thinking positive about yourself and your sexual health.
See the doctor for regular checkups and medical screening tests so that any health problem like high blood pressure or diabetes, which may result in erectile dysfunction can be treated timely.