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Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) affects over 30 million men in the US and 150 million worldwide. It can be caused by a variety of factors, often in combination.

It can be caused either by a medical condition such as diabetes, nerve or heart disease, a medication side effect, or a psychological issue like stress or relationship issues. Treatments range from medication to penile implants.

Causes

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by psychological, medical or physical factors. It is a common disorder that affects a male’s sexual function. This can lead to emotional distress or marital problems. The causes of ED are not fully understood. It is vital to address any issues causing sexual dysfunction whether they be psychological or medical.

Blood can fill the corpora cavenosa, or chambers of the penis. This occurs due to impulses coming from the brain and the genital nerves. ED can be caused by anything that blocks these signals, or prevents the blood flow to your penis. ED can be caused by medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Surgery and cancer treatment may also affect a male’s ability to have and maintain an erection.

Men may feel embarrassed to discuss erectile dysfunction with their doctor. However, a diagnosis will help to treat the problem. Often, a doctor can provide a number of treatments that can improve a person’s sexual functioning and reduce the impact on relationships.

Symptoms

Erectile dysfunction can disrupt relationships in men, as well as their physical health. People with ED can cause their partners to feel anxious and upset, or they may suspect that their partner is unfaithful. Many people with ED stop engaging in sexual activity.

Erectile dysfunction symptoms include inability to achieve or maintain an erection, lifelong premature ejaculation, (i.e. ejaculating within one minute before vaginal penetration), and psychological symptoms like performance anxiety. A doctor can confirm the diagnosis by taking a sample of urine and performing blood tests.

Erectile dysfunction can often be treated by addressing the underlying cause, which may involve managing a health condition such as diabetes or heart disease, stopping smoking or alcohol abuse, and/or treating anxiety or depression. ED can also be a forewarning symptom of progressive coronary heart disease, so it’s important that men discuss their sexual function with their doctors.

Diagnosis

A health care provider can diagnose ED through questions, a physical examination and ordering lab tests. He may also refer to a Urologist.

The most common cause of ED is problems with blood flow to the penis. Atherosclerosis can cause this condition, which is the narrowing or blocking of arteries. This condition is usually caused by aging, but can also be caused by smoking, high blood-pressure, and certain medications.

Emotional problems are also a cause of ED or can make it worse. These can include feelings of low sex drive (loss of libido), stress, depression or anxiety from past experiences with ED or from the side effects of some medications. Having good communication with your sexual partner can help address these issues. A therapist can help. It is sometimes helpful for partners to be involved in treatment sessions. Some people prefer to visit a health care provider by themselves.

Treatment

The treatment of erectile dysfunction depends on its underlying cause. It can be improved by managing diabetes and heart disease, and taking medications that help blood flow to the penis (such as nitrates). Treatment for BPH or Pelvic Cancer can also affect sexual function. Sometimes surgery for prostate or bladder problems can damage nerves that control an erection. The problem usually improves with time.

Some medications, such as some blood pressure drugs (especially thiazides), and some antidepressants, can cause ED. Before changing your medication, talk to your doctor.

Some people can reduce the symptoms of ED by making lifestyle changes such as eating healthily and exercising regularly. Stress and anxiety levels can also be reduced. Counseling or psychotherapy may be helpful for those with psychological causes of ED. Some insurance plans cover these services, but you also can pay to see a counselor privately. You may want to go to counseling with your partner. It can teach you how to support one another during this difficult period.