Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve and sustain an erection suitable for sexual intercourse. Reliable estimates suggest that one of every ten men will suffer from ED at some point during his lifetime, and it is important to understand that in the great majority of cases, ED is a symptom of an underlying problem. This condition is not considered normal at any age and may be associated with other problems that interfere with sexual intercourse, such as lack of desire and problems with orgasm and ejaculation.
How common is erectile dysfunction?
It is estimated that approximately one in 10 adult males will suffer from ED on a long-term basis.
Many men do experience the occasional failure to achieve erection, which can occur for a variety of reasons, such as drinking too much alcohol, stress, relationship problems, or from being extremely tired.
The failure to achieve an erection less than 20 percent of the time is not unusual and typically does not require treatment. However, the failure to achieve an erection more than 50 percent of the time generally means that there is a problem and treatment is required.
ED does not have to be a part of getting older. While it is true that some older men may need more stimulation, they should still need to be able to achieve an erection and enjoy intercourse.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
ED can be caused by a number of factors, including:
Vascular disease: blood supply to the penis can become blocked or narrowed as a result of vascular disease such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Neurological disorders (such as multiple sclerosis): nerves that send impulses to the penis can become damaged from stroke, diabetes, or other causes.
Psychological states: these include stress, depression, lack of stimulus from the brain, and performance anxiety.
Trauma: an injury could contribute to symptoms of ED.
Chronic illness, certain medications, and a condition called Peyronie’s disease can also cause ED. Operations for the prostate, bladder, and colon cancer may also be contributing factors.
Medications That May Cause Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common side effect of a number of prescription drugs. While these medications may treat a disease or condition, in doing so they can affect a man’s hormones, nerves or blood circulation, resulting in ED or increasing the risk of ED. If you experience ED and think that it may be a result of the medication you are using, DO NOT stop taking the medication. If the problem persists, contact your doctor and he or she may be able to prescribe a different medication. Common medications that may list ED as a potential side effect include:
Parkinson’s disease drugs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Histamine H2-receptor antagonists
Prostate cancer drugs
Other substances or drugs that can cause or lead to ED include these recreational and frequently abused drugs:
These drugs not only affect and often suppress the central nervous system, but can also cause serious damage to the blood vessels, leading to permanent ED.
Can ED be prevented?
For people who are at risk of developing ED due to personal behavior, steps may be taken to try to prevent its occurrence. However, other causes may not be preventable.
There are now a number of epidemiologic studies that suggest a link between ED and obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
The following recommendations may play a role in the prevention of ED or improvement (if the problem is already present):
Eat a healthful diet. A diet that limits saturated fat intake and includes several portions of fruits, vegetables and whole grains can benefit men with ED.
Reduce cholesterol. High cholesterol can harden, narrow or block the arteries (atherosclerosis) leading to the penis. Men can lower cholesterol through diet, exercise and medication.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise regularly. Regular exercise may reduce the risk of ED. Choose exercises that you enjoy and will make a regular part of your day. In addition to reducing the risk of ED, exercise also can help you manage stress. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
What doctors treat erectile dysfunction?
The type of medical specialist who treats ED will depend on the cause of the problem. Based on your family’s medical history, as well as your own medical history and current health, your doctor may treat you with oral medications (Viagra, Levitra, Cialis) or other non-surgical options (vacuum device, injections, etc.). If these options fail, you may be referred to a urologist who can assist with surgical treatment options. Your doctor may also refer you to a psychologist specializing in sexual dysfunction, if need be. What should I do if I am having problems achieving/maintaining an erection?
What should I do if I am having problems achieving/maintaining an erection?
If you suspect you have erectile dysfunction, please see your primary care physician or a urologist. He or she can perform a variety of tests to identify what is causing your problem and refer you to a specialist if needed. Once the cause is identified, there are several treatment options to consider.