Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence or ED, refers to a man's inability to sustain a natural erection required for sexual intercourse. Most of the men go through a brief period of erectile difficulties which are not necessarily anything to be worried about. If the inability to reach or maintain an erection persists for more than a few weeks or months, medical help should be sought. Erectile dysfunction can cause stress, anxiety, and self-confidence problems which can impact on some relationships.
A substantial number of men having erectile issues are generally embarrassed to talk to their doctors about it. Experts advise men with erectile problems to see their doctor not only because the condition can often be effectively treated, but also because erectile dysfunction may be a sign of an underlying health problem, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or a cardiovascular disease, some of which may be life-threatening.
If an underlying health problem is detected and treated effectively, the erectile dysfunction may get cured too.
Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms
- Difficulty in achieving an erection
- Inability in sustaining an erection
- Reduced libido
- Achieving an erection only during masturbation and not during sexual intercourse
Erectile Dysfunction Causes
There are four main types of physical causes:
- Anatomical - there is some issue with the overall physical structure of the penis
- Hormonal - hormone levels are not sufficient
- Neurogenic - the nervous system is affected (i.e. brain, nerves and spinal cord)
- Vasculogenic - the blood flow to the penis is affected
Examples of physical causes may include:
- Atherosclerosis (clogged blood vessels)
- Enlarged prostate treatment
- Heart disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Injuries to the pelvic area or spinal cord
- Hormonal problems - hypogonadism (low testosterone), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), Cushing's syndrome (production of cortisol is affected)
- Kidney disease - researchers from California University's San Diego School of Medicine reported in the British Journal of Urology that patients who undergo a total nephrectomy (complete removal of one kidney) have a considerably greater risk of developing erectile dysfunction.
- Metabolic syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson's disease
- Peyronie's disease (scar tissue inside the penis)
- Prolonged cycling - the nerves which affect blood flow to the penis can become compressed, leading to a temporary problem. Special saddles for males can prevent this problem from occurring.
- Prostate cancer treatment
- Bowel cancer treatment - a team of experts from the University of Birmingham, England, found that patients with bowel cancer run a high risk of developing erectile dysfunction after being treated. They added that most bowel cancer patients receive no advice on ED.
- Smoking - damages the blood vessels, which undermines blood flow to the penis.
- Some prescription drugs - including some diuretics, antihypertensives, fibrates, antipsychotics, antidepressants, corticosteroids, antihistamines, and anti-androgens. Scientists from Kaiser Permanente wrote in the British Journal of Urology International that the more medications a patient is taking, the higher is his risk of developing erectile dysfunction. They added that ED severity risk is also associated with the number of medications the man is taking.
- Substance abuse
- Surgery in the pelvic area or spinal cord
Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction
- Relationship problems
Erectile dysfunction is not an inevitable part of ageing. It is usually linked to something else, such as a health condition. Many of these conditions come with age, but age itself does not cause ED.