Sexual Health

Erectile Dysfunction: A Guide

An erection plays a crucial part not only in sexual intercourse but also in allowing a man to reproduce.

While a majority of men can experience an erection, some experience difficulties.

Erectile dysfunction affects about 40% of all men by the age of 40.

The incidence of the condition greatly increases with age, with more than half of all men struggling to get an erection by the age of 70.

Erectile dysfunction is defined as difficulty gaining or maintaining an erection.

For some men, the symptoms may be mild and only occur infrequently.

Other men may not be able to have an erection at all. This can result in feelings of depression and performance anxiety.

We look at the potential causes behind erectile dysfunction and the treatment options that are available for men.

Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction

Due to the high prevalence of erectile dysfunction, men need to understand what the potential causes are behind the condition.

When poor erectile function affects a man, there are several areas of concern that need to be considered.

Diagnosis will usually aim at identifying the reason why the man is experiencing these symptoms.

Appropriate treatment would then be provided to address the underlying causes.

There are, however, several erectile dysfunction myths that men also need to be aware of.

The specific course of action, including any medications provided to the patient, would often depend on whether a disease or lifestyle factors may be behind the symptoms.

What Are The Most Common Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction?

One of the most common reasons why a man may experience problems with their ability to have a normal erection is due to poor blood flow.

Blood circulation plays a critical part in erectile function.

When sexually stimulated, the brain signals the muscles at the base of the penis to relax and allow blood to flow into the corpus cavernosum and the corpus spongiosum. As blood enters the penis, it starts to swell up, ultimately leading to an erection.

There are several potential reasons why blood flow may be restricted. Some common causes may include:

  • High levels of total cholesterol. The same happens when LDL cholesterol levels become too high. This is the type of cholesterol that clogs arteries.

  • High blood pressure is another problem that can cause a man to experience problems having an erection. When blood pressure levels are high, it may also make maintaining an erection harder.

  • Parkinson’s disease may have an impact on a man’s ability to perform and lead to symptoms associated with erectile dysfunction.

  • Treatment for prostate cancer, such as radical prostatectomy and radiation therapy can result in erectile dysfunction

  • Certain sleep disorders seem to be a risk factor for this condition.

  • Multiple sclerosis is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord. Men with multiple sclerosis are also much more likely to develop erectile dysfunction.

  • Men who abuse alcohol and drugs, as well as those who use tobacco, are also at a higher risk.

  • Certain pharmaceutical medicines can also cause a man to experience these symptoms. The following would be among the prescription drugs used by the patient:

    . Antidepressants

    . Diuretics

    . Tranquilizers

    . Anti-ulcer drugs

    . Alpha-blockers
  • Other drugs can contribute to erectile difficulties, as well. These may include medicine used to treat kidney disorders, heart disease, and liver failure.

What Diseases And Disorders Can Present As Erectile Dysfunction?

Certain medical conditions can affect a man’s ability to have a normal erection. Some conditions may present as erectile dysfunction before other apparent symptoms develop.

  • Coronary artery disease is one such condition that should not go unnoticed. The condition is also known as atherosclerosis. This is when arteries are blocked or become narrower. Deposits of fat and cholesterol are the most common reasons why atherosclerosis tends to develop. This condition affects blood flow. Some medical experts believe that erectile dysfunction may really be one of the first signs of the disease in men.

  • Kidney disease may also present as erectile dysfunction. The condition can cause changes in the way that hormones are produced in the patient’s body. In turn, energy levels can be affected, as well as nerve function and blood circulation. The man may have a low sex drive and find that their usual abilities in the bedroom become weaker.

  • Diabetes mellitus is another condition to note. Diabetes causes blood sugar levels to remain high and is most often caused by cells becoming resistant to insulin. This means glucose is not effectively used in the body. Fatigue is often a tell-tale sign of diabetes, which can already have an impact on erectile function. Apart from this, the nerve damage caused by the disease further contributes to the development of erectile dysfunction.

How Are The Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosed?

Diagnosing erectile dysfunction involves identifying the cause behind the condition.

The process will usually start with the physician asking the patient several questions.

It is also crucial for the care provider to take a look at the medical history of the patient. This will tell them if there are any risk factors in the patient’s history.

Risk factors may include a heart attack, which may signal potential heart and artery problems.

The physician will also take a closer look at any existing diseases and ask about over-the-counter and prescription medications that are being taken.

Certain tests can also be performed on the patient. These tests can help the doctor determine if there may be issues with the patient’s heart or nerve function, high blood sugar levels, and cholesterol.

When the cause behind the erectile dysfunction symptoms is identified, then a more effective treatment can be provided to the patient.

Nonsurgical Treatments For Erectile Dysfunction

Nonsurgical treatment is the preferred way of dealing with the condition. This generally includes non-invasive methods that aim at restoring optimal erectile function.

Sexual dysfunction may be linked not only to the erectile problems but also to accompanying symptoms, such as low libido.

The specific way to treat erectile dysfunction varies among patients. While one patient may benefit from the use of penile injection therapy, another may find that targeting an underlying cause, such as problems with their blood vessels, yield better results – especially over the long term.

Urological health is another matter that needs to be taken into account. Problems with the urinary tract and related systems may also become the target of treatment options offered to the patient.

How Can Hormone Therapy Correct Erectile Dysfunction?

If a male patient exhibits signs of low testosterone, then a blood test may be done to determine hormone levels in their system. If free circulating testosterone in the body is low, then hormone therapy could be offered as a possible treatment option.

Testosterone is not known to have a direct impact on erectile function. This, however, does not mean that it does not play a role in the development of erectile dysfunction.

Men with low testosterone levels are more likely to find that their libido is low.

When a low libido is experienced, issues with erectile function are likely to happen. This is as a weak libido can affect the man’s ability to become sexually stimulated.

How Can Medication Correct Erectile Dysfunction?

Several drugs have been approved for use in treating erectile dysfunction. These drugs primarily aim to assist in enhancing blood flow in the patient’s penis.

When blood flow is increased, there is a more significant amount to enter the penis when an erection occurs.

Some of the most commonly prescribed medications that are used to treat erectile dysfunction include:

  • Viagra

  • Levitra

  • Staxyn

  • Stendra

  • Cialis

These drugs improve blood flow by increasing the efficacy of nitric oxide, which is a type of gaseous chemical that the body produces itself in normal circumstances.

Nitric oxide causes muscles in the patient’s penis to relax. When these muscles relax more effectively, then blood flow in the penis is improved.

Erectile dysfunction medications are usually taken 30 minutes to one hour before intercourse.

The duration for which the drug will last depends on the specific medication used. Viagra, for example, will be effective for up to five hours and generally works for mild to moderate symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

Cialis can provide effective results for as long as 36 hours with a single dose.

What Lifestyle Changes Can You Make To Correct Erectile Dysfunction?

There are certain risk factors directly related to the man’s lifestyle that may be contributing to their erectile dysfunction.

When lifestyle changes are made, the patient could experience an improvement in erectile function without having to take medications.

Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are two of the most important factors that can contribute to poor erectile function.

The most obvious way of addressing a sedentary lifestyle is to ensure the patient starts to participate in a daily exercise routine. They should be introduced to exercises that are appropriate for their weight and abilities. Any existing medical conditions should also be taken into account.

Obesity will be addressed through increased physical activity, but would also need a diet adjustment.

A caloric deficit is required in order to ensure the patient will be able to reduce their excess weight effectively.

At the same time, the patient’s diet need to include healthy food options that will not cause an increase in blood sugar and blood pressure levels. They should also avoid a buildup of cholesterol in their arteries.

Surgical Treatments For Erectile Dysfunction

While erectile dysfunction can often be treated successfully through the use of non-invasive methods, there are cases where surgery is needed.

Surgery may be advisable when the patient notes that their ability to have sexual intercourse is completely inhibited, and the other methods used as treatment options have failed to yield effective results.

Patients do need to understand the potential risks that come with surgical treatment. The specific surgical procedure also depends on the cause behind the symptoms. These may be related to diabetes or blood vessel damage, for example.

How Can Surgery Help Erectile Dysfunction?

There are three relatively standard surgical procedures that a man may opt for if all else fails. The specific option that would yield the best results for the man depends on several factors.

A penile implant is an option that some men do consider. Urologists would be able to determine what procedure could be most beneficial.

The arteries in the penis may sometimes be reconstructed in such a way to help more blood flow to the penis when the man becomes sexually stimulated.

Another possible surgical procedure would be to block specific veins that allow blood to flow out of the penis.

When blood leaves the penis, an erection goes away. If surgery is used to block some of these veins, then the man may be able to maintain their erection for a more extended period.

When Are Surgical Options Considered For Erectile Dysfunction?

Surgery is most often considered a last line of treatment. This is when options like penile injection therapy and perhaps even testosterone replacement therapy did not help the man experience improvements in their erectile function.

A specialist will first examine men to determine if they are a good candidate for erectile dysfunction surgery.

Not all men will be advised that this is a good idea. The specialist needs to determine if any type of surgery would be able to help with the erectile problems that the man experience.

How Does A Penile Implant Work?

When the use of reconstructive surgery does not seem like viable options, then a penis implant may be an option for the male patient to consider.

Different types of penile implants exist. The patient should be made aware of the types and how they would affect their penis. A popular option is for two cylinders that are rigid to be implanted into the penis.

These will provide adequate rigidity for the man to participate in sexual intercourse.

An alternative option is available where two balloon-like cylinders are placed into the penis, along with a third piece that acts as a valve. The cylinders are inflated during an erection, which causes the penis to become rigid and allows for penetration during sexual intercourse.

Best Supplements For Treating Erectile Dysfunction

While the use of medications like Viagra remains a popular option for men, there is also a growing concern regarding side-effects.

Common side-effects of these drugs tend to include nosebleeds, flushing, headaches, dizziness, vision changes, insomnia, and even pain.

With this in mind, men are increasingly looking at natural supplements to help improve their abilities in the bedroom, without being exposed to the potential risks of pharmaceutical drugs.

How Do Erectile Dysfunction Supplements Work?

In the majority of cases, erection problems will be addressed through the use of ingredients that may help to improve blood flow.

A large number of the supplements that are currently available on the market are also promoted as testosterone boosters. These products primarily aim to help increase testosterone levels in the male body.

These are all factors that could benefit their abilities in the bedroom.
It is also possible to use natural supplements to address particular conditions in the body that may be contributing to weak erectile function.

An excellent example would be to use a natural supplement that may be able to assist in lowering blood pressure levels.

When high blood pressure is the potential cause behind erectile dysfunction, then such a supplement may be helpful.

Why Should You Consider Taking Supplements For Erectile Dysfunction?

The primary reason why men might want to consider trying a natural supplement is due to the improved safety that comes with many of these products.

There are a couple of ingredients that may yield unpleasant side-effects. An ingredient known as Yohimbe may really have the same safety profile as Viagra.

Natural supplements also tend to contain ingredients that yield more than just a single benefit. Not only may they provide better erections, but they could also offer additional benefits to their general well-being.

Supplements are also readily available at most health stores and even supermarkets. This makes it much easier for men to get their hands on the possible treatment of erectile dysfunction.

What Dietary Deficiencies Can Contribute To Erectile Dysfunction?

The body needs certain nutrients to remain healthy and for all systems to function properly. This applies to erectile function too. When a man suffers certain nutritional deficiencies, they may become more suspectable to erectile dysfunction.

One scientific study found a potential link between a deficiency in vitamin D and erectile dysfunction.

Vitamin C is another nutrient to focus on. This vitamin plays a role in blood circulation, and a deficiency in vitamin C may cause problems with a man’s erectile function.

Conclusion

Erectile dysfunction is relatively common among the male population. Understanding the potential causes behind the condition can help men understand their own risk.

It can also identify strategies for reducing their likeliness of developing erectile dysfunction. Several treatments are available, many of which do not require any invasive treatments. Some natural supplements may also help to improve blood flow and other erectile difficulties.

Sources

  1. Shindel AW, Brandt WO, Bochinski D, et al. Medical and Surgical Therapy of Erectile Dysfunction. 2018 Jul 10. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-.
  2. Yafi FA, Jenkins L, Albersen M, et al. Erectile dysfunction. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2016;2:16003. Published 2016 Feb 4. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2016.3
  3. Rizk PJ, Kohn TP, Pastuszak AW, Khera M. Testosterone therapy improves erectile function and libido in hypogonadal men. Curr Opin Urol. 2017;27(6):511–515. doi:10.1097/MOU.0000000000000442
  4. https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/erectile-dysfunction
  5. https://www.drugs.com/viagra.html

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