Sexual problems are common in both men and women, and they often go undiagnosed. Many men suffering from erectile dysfunction fear the stigma of being labeled sexually inadequate, but correct diagnosis and treatment will help these patients take control of their lives.
How does an erection happen?
When a man is introduced to either visual or tactile stimuli, the brain sends neurological signals and a rush of blood to the penis. This increased volume of blood flows into the spongy tissues on either side of the penis, causing it to swell and harden. When the man is no longer excited, the veins decrease in size, allowing the blood to slowly return to circulation.
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is a broad term that addresses a man’s inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection. This condition used to be referred to as impotence, but this term left many men feeling hopeless and despondent. Changing the term to erectile dysfunction gave many patients a feeling of empowerment, knowing that it was a treatable condition and not a life sentence.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
The causes behind erectile dysfunction are varied, and may be either physical or psychological in nature. Signals that trigger an erection must travel from the brain down to the penis, and any disruption of those stimuli may result in erectile problems. Major medical conditions may contribute to erectile dysfunction, including but not limited to:
- Injury to the penis or pelvic area
- Prostate disease
- Heart disease
- Kidney or liver disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption may also impact sexual function, and patients should refrain from indulging in the habits during treatment.
I’m a healthy man with none of the above medical issues – why am I still having trouble getting an erection?
Erectile dysfunction is not strictly a medical problem; many psychological issues may impact your ability to achieve an erection. Stress over finances, communication issues in your relationship, and anxiety over sexual performance may disrupt your ability to relax and enjoy sex. A few sessions with a therapist specializing in sexual dysfunction, combined with a course of medication, will help you understand how to refocus your thoughts and enjoy sex once again.
Talking about erectile dysfunction is embarrassing. What’s going to happen when I meet with my doctor?
Erectile dysfunction has been a treatable medical condition for many years, and is one of the most common concerns of otherwise healthy men. Your doctor will ask you a number of questions about your sexual activities, and they may be slightly invasive. However, it is essential that you answer honestly to help form the best course of treatment for your issue. Your doctor will also run a complete blood panel and conduct a physical examination to rule out potential medical causes for your erectile dysfunction.
What types of treatment are available?
Treatments for erectile dysfunction are as varied as the reasons behind the issue, but most men opt for medication due to its high success rate. Oral medications, including sildenafil, work quickly to help the body relax and encourage blood to flow into the penis, resulting in an erection that may last for up to four hours. Gel therapy is also popular, and is inserted directly into the urethra just before sexual intercourse. These gels help encourage a strong, hard erection that lasts for up to sixty minutes.