Erectile dysfunction is a topic about which many men are reluctant to talk. They are even less likely to admit they have it. Yet, there are plenty of positives to discuss when it comes to advancements in the treatment for ED. In most cases, those who seek help no longer have to suffer the stigma of not being able to perform in the bedroom.
It is estimated that up to 30 million men the United States, and millions more around the globe, suffer to some degree with erectile dysfunction. Men over the age of 40 are more likely to be affected, but ED is not necessarily a symptom of growing older. Since virility is such an important issue when it comes to men’s psychological health, the onset of erectile dysfunction can be a devastating experience on many levels.
Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is the inability of a man to get or sustain an erection strong enough to have sexual intercourse. An erection occurs when there is an increase in the amount of blood flowing to the penis, caused by sexual thoughts or direct stimulation to the penis. ED occurs when there is a lack of blood flowing to the penis during times when an erection would typically be achieved. When erectile dysfunction occurs, it is frustrating and embarrassing; however, not all ED is chronic and there are many causes for the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. Men of any age can experience occasional ED, due to factors such as stress, anxiety, lack of sleep or consuming too much alcohol. Usually, these are one-time or infrequent occurrences and in most cases resolve themselves when the cause is eliminated or reduced.
Erectile dysfunction becomes a serious problem when it becomes chronic. The chances of suffering from chronic ED become higher as a man grows older. It is estimated that 17 percent of men in their 60s suffer from ED. That number jumps to 50 percent for men age 75 or older. When a man is rarely able to achieve an erection or is unable to perform, it is often due to an underlying physical issue. To make matters worse, chronic ED frequently leads to emotional and psychological problems such as stress, frustration, shame, feelings of inadequacy, loss of self-confidence, loss of sexual desire and even depression. It can also lead to significant problems in a marriage or other relationship when a man is unable to perform during sexual intercourse.
Although it may seem simple, the male sexual response is a complex process. Achieving an erection involves emotions, messages from the brain, hormones, blood vessels and muscles. A problem in one or more of these areas can lead to erectile dysfunction. This is why it is important for men experiencing chronic ED to visit their doctor. Even the thought of discussing this topic with a healthcare professional can be frightening for many men, and some choose to seek a cure on the Internet, rather than face the embarrassment of a doctor’s visit. However, trying to diagnose and treat ED online can lead to even more problems or delay finding a treatment that works, which is why a doctor’s visit should be the first step in ED finding the cause. Doctors trained in this area can pinpoint the cause of the ED and recommend an effective treatment. What’s more, erectile dysfunction can be a warning sign that a man has a more serious, yet untreated health condition.
Some of the most common physical causes of erectile dysfunction include diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, alcoholism, certain prescription medications, prostate problems and diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Psychological problems can also be the cause of ED, including depression, ongoing stress, performance anxiety or even relationship problems. With so many possible causes, it is essential that men suffering from ED seek professional help.
In many cases, a doctor can quickly determine possible causes for ED, by looking at a patient’s health history and current health problems. In other cases, a patient may have to undergo a series of tests to rule out or discover possible causes for erectile dysfunction. This may involve seeing a specialist, such as a urologist. Tests may include blood, urine and ultrasound.
There are a wide range of treatments for erectile dysfunction, but the right treatment depends heavily on the specific cause. Most men are familiar with the television commercials for ED medications, but pills represent just one of the many options available to those who suffer from erectile dysfunction.
One of the primary cures a doctor may recommend for ED is a change in lifestyle. Exercise, losing weight and eating healthier may lead to an improvement in erectile dysfunction, by reducing stress, improving overall health and increasing blood flow. Other lifestyle changes may include the elimination of tobacco products or to stop drinking alcohol. Many doctors prefer a patient try making positive changes to their lifestyle before trying any other ED treatments depending on the causes of the ED.
Another simple cure for ED may be changing a patient’s medication. Some prescription drugs, such as, antihistamines, antidepressants or those used for high blood pressure, may interfere with a man’s ability to achieve an erection or reduce his interest in sex. Changing the prescription drug, may eliminate ED or reduce its occurrences.
If the cause of erectile dysfunction is determined to be psychological; then professional therapy can be the best route for treatment. Therapy sessions can reveal relationship issues, underlying causes for stress or anxiety, feelings of guilt or negative attitudes surrounding sex that are causing erectile dysfunction. Coming to terms with and dealing with these issues can eliminate or reduce ED.
Without question, medications have become the most common treatment for erectile dysfunction. The most popular drugs used have household names like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra, which are also known, respectively, as sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil. These drugs are taken about an hour before sex and help a man achieve a normal erection. They increase the effects of nitric oxide in a man’s body. This causes the muscles in the penis to relax, increasing blood flow and allowing an erection. Studies show these drugs are effective in about 70 percent of men who have ED, but they are not for everyone. These drugs should not be used by men who are being treated with nitroglycerin or nitrate drugs, because the combination of the two drugs can drop blood pressure to dangerous levels. Also, men with heart disease or those who have had a stroke might not be able to take these drugs. Men can find ED drugs online but prescription drugs should only be purchased through a doctor to assure that they are the right treatment and that they are safe.
In cases where ED cannot be treated through oral medications, doctors may recommend a self-injection drug. Alprostadil is injected into the penis with a very fine needle and allows an erection to occur. Another benefit of this drug is that it can improve blood flow to the penis and a man’s potency over the long run. Alprostadil may also be used in the form of a suppository, which is inserted into the urethra. Both Alprostadil options produce an erection that can last up to an hour.
Another option in the treatment of erectile dysfunction is a vacuum inflation device, also known as a penis pump. The pump is placed over the penis. The pump uses a vacuum to pull blood into the penis, and then a ring is placed over the base of the penis to hold the blood in place.
In rare cases, surgery may be the best option to treat ED. One surgical technique involves penile implants. The implants are inflatable or semi-rigid, flexible rods that are surgically placed inside the penis. Both options aid in obtaining an erection. Usually, this option is reserved for patients who have not been successful with other treatments. Also rare is blood vessel surgery, which can repair blood vessels that are obstructed and causing erectile dysfunction. This surgery involves a bypass or stenting of the blood vessels.
Living with erectile dysfunction is much easier today than it was decades ago, because there have been so many medical advancements in this area. For those experiencing ED, the key is to speak with a doctor, find the source of the problem and identify a treatment that works. All men can reduce their chances of experiencing erectile dysfunction by living a healthy lifestyle, which eliminates tobacco and reduces alcohol consumption, while increasing healthy eating and exercise. For those who do experience ED, it is important to include your partner in the solution. Talking about the problem together and formulating a plan for treatment can bring you closer in your relationship and create a healthier bond. Communicating about ED helps eliminate the pitfalls that occur with the denial, blame and frustration that commonly be a part of erectile dysfunction.
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