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Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction affects more than 30 million men in the US, and 150 millions worldwide. Many factors – often in combination – can cause it.

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 medical, psychological 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 have not been fully understood. It is important to address any issues that may be causing the sexual dysfunction, whether they are psychological or medical.

When blood fills the corpora venosa (the chambers within his penis), a man can get erection. This occurs due to impulses coming from the brain and the genital nerves. ED can be caused if something blocks these signals or stops blood flow in the penis. ED can also be caused by medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Surgery and cancer treatment may also affect a male’s ability to have and maintain an erection.

Men may be embarrassed about talking to their doctor, but it is important to get a diagnosis to treat the condition. 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 affects a man’s health and can also disrupt his personal relationships. Partners of people with ED may feel upset and anxious, or may suspect their partner is being unfaithful. Many people with ED stop engaging in sexual activity.

Symptoms of erectile dysfunction can include a failure to achieve and maintain an erection; lifelong premature ejaculation (i.e., ejaculating before or within one minute of vaginal penetration); and psychological symptoms such as performance anxiety. A doctor can confirm a diagnosis by examining the patient’s penis, taking a urine sample, and doing blood tests.

Erectile dysfunction is often treated by addressing its underlying cause. This may include managing a condition such as diabetes, heart disease, or stopping smoking and alcohol abuse. It can also involve treating anxiety or depression. ED is a warning sign of coronary heart disease. Men should discuss their sexual function and their doctor.

Diagnosis

A health care professional can diagnose ED by asking questions, giving you a physical exam and ordering lab tests. He may also refer to a Urologist.

The most common cause is a problem with blood circulation to the penis. This can be caused by a condition called atherosclerosis, which is narrowing or clogging of the 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. This can include feelings of low sex desire (loss in libido), anxiety, stress or depression from past experiences of ED. Having good communication with your sexual partner can help address these issues. A therapist can also help. It is sometimes helpful for partners to be involved in treatment sessions. However, some people prefer to see a health care provider alone.

Treatment

The treatment of erectile dysfunction depends on its underlying cause. Diabetes and heart disease can be managed, as well as taking medications to increase blood flow in the penis. Sexual function may be affected by treatment for BPH or pelvic cancer. Surgery for prostate and bladder problems can damage the nerves controlling an erection. The problem usually improves with time.

Some medications (especially thiazides and antidepressants) can cause ED. Speak to your doctor about changing your medication.

Making lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy food and getting regular exercise, can reduce symptoms of ED in some people. Stress and anxiety levels can also be reduced. Psychotherapy and counseling can be helpful to those with psychological causes for ED. Some insurance plans cover these services, but you also can pay to see a counselor privately. You could go to counseling sessions with your partner. This can help you both learn how to support each other through this difficult time.