Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Outlook

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A women concern about her husband who has erectile dysfunction(ED)

1Overview

To have sex, men should have an erection. From time to time, most men may have problems with erections. However, when it happens more than the usual, there is a condition called erectile dysfunction (ED) or in simpler terms, impotence.

An erectile dysfunction is when a man can’t get or keep an erection during sex.
If ED is a current and ongoing issue, it may lead to various complications such as stress, problems in the relationship and self-confidence issues.

However, ED isn’t the only male sexual problems reported. The other types of male sexual dysfunction include lack of interest in sex, delayed or absent ejaculation and premature ejaculation.

The problem with this disease is, men who have ED may be reluctant to seek medical help because, for them, it’s an embarrassing issue. The good thing is, there are many treatments available. This article shows important and helpful information for individuals experiencing ED.

Erectile dysfunction rates are increasingly prevalent with age. In fact, by the age of 40, about 40 percent of men are affected by ED and this increases to about 70 percent in men who are 70 years old.

2Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of erectile dysfunction include:

  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Trouble getting an erection
  • Problem keeping an erection

3Causes

Male sexual arousal is indeed a complicated process. The whole process even involves the hormones, emotions, nerves, emotions the brain and the blood vessels. A problem with any of these factors may lead to erectile dysfunction.

A combination of various psychological and physical issues can lead to ED. It is, however, important to know how an erection works. When a man is sexually aroused, the penis is limp and soft. However, when a man is sexually aroused, the brain release chemicals that will boost the blood flow into the penis. The pressure of the blood in the two chambers of the penis makes the organ erect, firm and hard. This is termed as an erection. When there are problems, either psychologically or physically, these may lead to ED.

The most common causes include:

Physical problems – There are four main types of physical problems that may affect erection.

  • Vasculogenic – These are the diseases or conditions affecting the blood flow to the penis. Some examples are cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
  • Hormonal – These are the conditions that can affect the hormone levels in the body that may result in ED. Some of the examples include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome.
  • Neurogenic – These are the conditions affecting the central nervous system (CNS) that can lead to ED. Some of the examples include Parkinson’s disease, a stroke, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Anatomical – These are conditions affecting the physical structure of the penis. One example includes Peyronie’s disease.
  • Injuries and surgery – Some surgical treatments of the penis and surrounding tissue may lead to erectile dysfunction (ED).

Medicines – Some medicines may lead to erectile dysfunction. These medicines include antihypertensives, diuretics, fibrates, antidepressants, antipsychotics, H2-antagonists, antihistamines, corticosteroids, anti-androgens, and cytotoxics.

Psychological causes – The two emotions or feelings that may lead to ED include anxiety and depression. The other emotional issues that can affect the ability to maintain an erection include lack of sexual knowledge, relationship problems, new relationship, past sexual abuse, and sexual problems.

4Risk Factors

Some factors may raise one’s risk of developing a disease. In ED, here are the most common risk factors:

Smoking – Tobacco use or smoking limits the blood flow to the arteries and veins.
This could also lead to erectile dysfunction.

Medical conditions – Some medical problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes may cause ED because of the limited blood flow to the penis.

Injuries or trauma – When the arteries, veins, and nerves in the penis become damaged, these may cause erectile dysfunction.

Radiation therapy and prostate surgery – Some medical procedures and treatments like for those who have cancer may increase the risk of developing ED.

Obesity and being overweight – Men who are obese or overweight may have increased risk of having ED.

Being an alcoholic or using drugs – People who abuse alcohol and drugs are prone to having impotence.

Psychological conditions – People who experience stress, depression, and anxiety, are at a higher risk of having ED.

Some medicines – Some medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, and drugs to treat high blood pressure may lead to erectile problems.

5Complications

People with ED may have these resulting complications:

  • Problems with sex life
  • Problems with relationships
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Low self-esteem and stress
  • Low self-confidence
  • Having no children
  • Dissatisfaction with sex life.

6Diagnosis

Diagnosing erectile dysfunction is based on the patient’s signs and symptoms. The doctor will usually ask the patient about his symptoms, alcohol consumption, general mental and physical health, drug use and if he is currently taking any medications.

Aside from that, the doctor will ask questions about the patient’s sexual history.
These include sexual orientation, current sexual relationships, how long has the ED started, whether the patient achieve organism or ejaculate and of the ED has been affecting his life.

Here are the other diagnostic exams:

Physical examination – The doctor may perform a thorough examination of the testicles and penis. Moreover, the doctor may test the patient’s sensations, especially in the groin area.

Cardiovascular health check – The blood pressure and other ways to diagnose the condition will be done. These will determine if the patient is fit or suffering from a heart problem.

Blood tests – Blood tests can determine if a patient has diabetes, low testosterone levels, heart disease and other health problems.

Urinalysis – Urine tests are important to determine if the patient has diabetes or other health conditions.

Ultrasound – This test will determine if the person’s blood vessels are affected.

Psychological exam – The doctor may need to screen for people with depression. This will help treat the condition and manage its symptoms.

7Treatment

Depending on the underlying cause of impotence, the doctor may recommend various treatment options.

Treating underlying conditions

If the ED is caused by an underlying health condition, it is important to treat the disease first such as heart disease and diabetes. In some cases, treating the underlying cause may also resolve the erectile dysfunction.

Medicines

Oral medications are effective in treating erectile dysfunction. However, only a licensed doctor should prescribe these medications. These include:

  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Alprostadil (Caverject)
  • Tadalafil (Adcirca or Cialis)
  • Testosterone (Androderm)
  • Vardenafil (Levitra)
  • Avanafil (Stendra)

Taking these medicines will automatically allow for an erection. Sexual stimulation, however, is still needed to let the penile nerves release nitric oxide. Also, before taking medications, it’s important to get the go signal of your doctor because these medications may have certain side effects, too.

Other medications

The other medicines for ED include:

Alprostadil urethral suppository – This is used to promote erection by placing a small alprostadil suppository inside the penis. It promotes erection within ten minutes and can last for about 30 to 60 minutes.

Alprostadil self-injection – This involves the injection of the drug into the base of the penis.

Testosterone replacement – This is used in men who have ED that might be caused by low levels of testosterone.

Lifestyle changes

Erectile dysfunction can often improve by changing some habits like:

  • Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight
  • Stopping smoking
  • Abstaining from taking illicit drugs
  • Exercising regularly
  • Cutting back on alcohol
  • Reducing stress
  • Getting enough sleep

Surgical treatments

In some cases, surgery is needed to resolve ED. The most common surgical treatments include vascular surgery, to correct some blood vessel issue and penile implants, the final option for those who did not respond to all treatments.

8Prevention

Some preventive measures have been seen to prevent the occurrence of erectile dysfunction, including:

  • Working with the doctor to manage underlying causes such as chronic health conditions (cardiovascular disease and diabetes).
  • Consult with a doctor regularly and get tested frequently.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight when you’re overweight or obese
  • Review all the medications you’re taking and consult with the doctor if some of these medications may cause ED.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol consumption
  • Do not use illegal drugs
  • Get help for stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems
  • Take prescribed medicines as prescribed.
  • Watch what you eat. Eat a well-balanced diet and a variety of food daily.
  • Drink plenty of water for overall health
  • Avoid high blood pressure and increased blood cholesterol levels.
  • Watch out for low testosterone levels.
  • Avoid anabolic steroids.
  • Steer clear of risky sex and practice safe sex.
  • Reduce or curb stress

9Outlook

Making lifestyle changes and improvements may also help improve the symptoms to prevent erectile dysfunction or prevent it from getting worse. Individuals who have their medicines should take them religiously and appropriately. This way, the condition will not progress.

For people with underlying health problems as culprits of ED, they need to manage and treat these health conditions first, to determine if the ED can be resolved when these are treated. There are many treatments for erectile dysfunction and men should not be embarrassed to seek medical assistance and help. They don’t need to suffer in silence.