Erectile dysfunction is a medical condition that affects men of all ages but becomes increasingly prevalent with age. Also known as ED, erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sex. Inside the penis there are two long, cylindrical chambers called the corpora cavernosa, which contain a myriad of blood vessels and tissues, as well as one major artery in each chamber.
When aroused, the brain sends chemical messages to the blood vessels in the penis, causing them to dilate or open, allowing blood to flow into the penis. As the pressure builds, the blood becomes trapped in the corpora cavernosa, keeping the penis erect. If blood flow to the penis is insufficient or if it fails to stay inside the penis, it can lead to erectile dysfunction.Millions of men struggle with it, but shockingly few ever seek treatment. Erectile dysfunction is a highly personal problem that many men find embarrassing or shy to talk about.
Men who fail to seek treatment for erectile dysfunction often feel as though they are alone in their suffering, but nothing could be further from the truth. A study on male aging found that as many as 40 percent of men experience some degree of erectile dysfunction by the time they reach 40, and the incidence rises as high as 70 percent by age seventy.
CAUSES OF ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION
Causes of erectile dysfunction can be divided into two categories: physical and psychological. Though each of these categories has its own set of contributing factors, many cases of erectile dysfunction involve causes from both categories. Here is an overview of each category:
*Physical causes : The most common physical causes of erectile dysfunction are related to circulation and blood pressure. Heart disease, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol and high blood pressure can all impact the amount of blood flowing to the penis. Diabetes contributes to ED by damaging your nerves and blood vessels. Taking certain medications is also associated with causing or exacerbating ED.
*Psychological causes: In many cases, ED is rooted in psychological issues especially in men under 40 years of age. Mental health conditions like depression or anxiety can negatively impact libido, making it more difficult to become aroused. Stress can also be a major factor because it may interfere with brain sending signals to allow extra blood to flow to the penis. In many cases, psychological issues develop into performance anxiety.
WHAT ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION TREATMENT OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?
In many cases, diagnosing erectile dysfunction requires little more than a physical exam and a review of your symptoms. If your doctor suspects that an underlying health problem may be at play, however, they may request additional testing. Once determined the doctor can decide on a form of treatment.
Medications like sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra) stimulate blood flow to the penis, enabling an erection. These drugs need to be taken prior to engaging in sexual activity.
Psychotherapy: For psychological causes of erectile dysfunction, psychotherapy can be beneficial. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular method because it helps address negative patterns of thought that can contribute to performance anxiety.
Vacuum constriction device: An alternative to oral medications, vacuum constriction devices can create an erection using vacuum pressure once an erection develops, a constriction band is places around the base of the penis to maintain the erection.
Surgery: One of the more invasive treatments for erectile dysfunction, surgical options also exist. Inflatable devices or malleable rods can be surgically implanted on either side of the penis to help achieve an erection.
Lifestyle changes: In cases where lifestyle factors such as obesity, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise play into erectile dysfunction, making health changes to your lifestyle may resolve the underlying conditions causing your symptoms.
Before you start a course of treatment, be sure to tell your doctor about any drugs or supplements you may be taking and keep an eye out for side effects.