Overview and Facts
Erectile dysfunction (ED), also called impotence, is the inability for a man to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. If this occasionally happens, it is not necessarily erectile dysfunction. However, when a man repeatedly has trouble with erections, it may be a sign of erectile dysfunction. Impotence is also a term used to describe other sexual problems such as lack of sexual desire and problems with orgasm; however, erectile dysfunction usually indicates that those problems are not involved.
Between 15 and 30 million men are affected by erectile dysfunction. It becomes more common as a man gets older, though sexual dysfunction is not a natural part of the aging process. Erectile dysfunction can sometimes be a sign of other health problems, so it is always important to alert a doctor of the possibility of having erectile dysfunction.
Signs and Symptoms
There are typically no other erectile dysfunction symptoms besides having trouble achieving or sustaining an erect penis.
Causes and Diagnosis
Erectile dysfunction has a physical cause, which is usually a disease, injury or side effects of drugs or medications. The most common cause of erectile dysfunction is damage to nerves, smooth muscles, arteries and fibrous tissues. Usually, this is a result of another disease. Disease is the cause of male impotence in 70% of cases and psychological factors account for up to 20% of cases. Up to 50% of men with diabetes experience erectile dysfunction. Below is a list of factors and diseases that can cause a man to be impotent:
- Kidney disease
- Stress or anxiety
- Being overweight
- Prescription medications such as antidepressants and blood pressure medicine
- Prostate or bladder surgery
- Fear of sexual desire
- Brain injuries
- Injury to penis, spinal cord and pelvis
- Multiple sclerosis
If a man occasionally experiences difficulty getting or keeping an erection, it is likely not a serious problem. However it this persists, it is possibly something physical is causing the man to be impotent. There is also a chance that a man could be experiencing psychological impotence. This means something psychological is causing the problem with achieving erection at certain times, but the man likely still has morning erections or erections while masturbating.
A doctor will diagnose erectile dysfunction based on medical and sexual histories, which can not only determine if the penis dysfunction is indeed erectile dysfunction, but also the medical condition that may be causing it. There are also lab tests that can help diagnose ED. Doing blood counts, urinalysis and lipid profiles can help, as well as measuring the amount of testosterone in the blood. Monitoring erections overnight can rule out psychological causes, as healthy men typically have involuntary erections while they sleep.
Tests and Treatment Options
Treatment for erectile dysfunction can be as simple as taking a pill. However, there are other lifestyle modifications and therapies that can be successful in helping men regain sexual function and treating impotence:
- Drug therapy. Medication for ED can be injected directly into the penis or taken orally. Viagra, Levitra and Cialis are all phosphodiesterase inhibitors that when taken an hour before sexual activity, they improve sexual stimulation and allow for increased blood flow.
- Quitting smoking
- Increasing physical activity
- Losing weight
- Psychotherapy. The goal of this is to decrease the anxiety associated with intercourse
- Cutting back on prescription medications that may be causing the impotence
- Vacuum devices. These are mechanical devices that create a partial vacuum and draws blood into the penis.
- Surgically implanted devices. These devices, known as prostheses, can restore erections in men with erectile dysfunction.
Helpful Tips and Home Remedies
Though often times erectile dysfunction is caused by a disease, it can also be caused or worsened by certain lifestyle choices a man makes. Some things that can help:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Don’t smoke
- Exercise regularly
- Get treatment for alcohol problems