Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects millions of men around the globe. It is often described as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection that prevents successful intercourse. Some men experience ED every time they have sex, while others have occasional episodes. It could be caused by stress, lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, certain medications, and other medical conditions. However, sometimes it can be a sign of a serious underlying condition like diabetes or heart disease. If you experience any symptoms of ED, talk to your doctor about what could be causing it. There are also effective treatments available to treat ED, including medicines, surgeries, and even devices.

What is erectile dysfunction (ED) & what causes it?

Erectile dysfunction is when a man is unable to produce or maintain an erection, leading to an inability to properly engage in sexual intercourse. It’s a very common condition but is known to be particularly prevalent among men between the ages of 40 and 70. ED can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from physical to psychological, and is also known to be triggered by certain medications. 

Some common causes of ED include:

  • Poor blood circulation
  • Injury to the nerves or arteries that supply blood to the penis
  • Hormonal problems
  • Side effects from medications
  • Surgery or other medical interventions
  • Smoking
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Stress, anxiety and depression
  • Pack of sexual knowledge
  • Past sexual abuse
  • Nervousness around a new partner

What are the symptoms of ED?

Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability to get and maintain an erection. It is a common problem, affecting up to one in five men over the age of 40. 

ED can have a profound impact on a man’s quality of life, affecting his self-esteem, his relationships, and his work. It can also be a sign of an underlying health condition, so it is important to see a doctor if you are experiencing any problems with erections.

It is important to understand what causes erectile dysfunction because there are many different reasons why someone may not be able to achieve and/or maintain an erection. If you can obtain and maintain an erection during masturbation but find you cannot when engaging in sexual activity with a partner, this would suggest that the cause is likely psychological. However, if you are unable to achieve and/or sustain an erection even when engaging in masturbation, then it is likely that the problem is physical.

There are many different causes of ED. Some of them are physical injuries, disease, medication side effects, alcohol, drugs, psychological problems like depression, anxiety, or even relationship problems.

How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?

Erectile dysfunction is usually quite easy to self-diagnose, given its obvious symptoms. However, if you notice changes in your ability to get or keep an erection, it’s always best to talk to your doctor about it. You may need an examination to rule out other causes of impotence like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances, and medication side effects.

If you do decide to consult your doctor, they will ask you some questions to determine the cause of your symptoms. It is important to answer these questions truthfully because they may affect your diagnosis. These questions may be regarding:

  • Your previous and current sexual relationship
  • Your sexual orientation
  • Your libido
  • How well you can maintain an erection (if at all), and how long you’ve suffered from ED
  • Whether you’re able to achieve an orgasm

Along with more general questions about your overall health, The doctor may also require you to perform some tests, as ED can be caused by more serious underlying conditions. These could include: 

  • Height, weight and waist measurements
  • A blood pressure test
  • A blood glucose test
  • A lipids test
  • A heart rate check
  • An ultrasound

Your doctor may also decide to examine your penis, to rule out any anatomical abnormalities that may be causing ED. For patients over the age of 50, a prostate examination may also be required. A blood sample may also need to be taken to show the hormone levels in the blood.

What treatments are available for erectile dysfunction?

Nowadays, there are plenty of treatment options available for erectile dysfunction. These include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Making certain lifestyle changes can help improve ED. These changes include exercising regularly, losing weight, quitting smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation.
  • Medication: There are several different medications that can be used to treat ED. These include oral medications, such as Sildenafil (Viagra), Tadalafil (Cialis), Avanafil (Spedra), Vardenafil (Levitra) and even a new cream treatment called Vitaros, which is applied directly to the penis. 
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat ED. This could involve placing implants in the penis or using a penile pump.

If medication seems like the best route for you, it’s always recommended that new patients start treatment on a lower dose. This dose should be attempted four times to determine whether more or less of the medication is needed. 

Some of the most common side effects of Sildenafil include headaches and flushing. 

It’s important not to buy any medicine without consulting your doctor first. You may need to see a specialist or go back to your regular GP if you are unsure about what medication you should be taking. There are many different types of medications available online and you may not know which type will suit you best. If you purchase medications online, be sure to request a consultation with a medical practitioner to discuss the best treatment for your symptoms.

Treating psychosexual causes

Erectile dysfunction is often caused by underlying psychological issues. Psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling or sex therapy may help treat the causes. These treatments are usually most effective when combined with physical therapy, which focuses on improving blood flow to the penis.

Other treatments for ED that do not respond to drug treatment or counselling include:

  • Hormone therapy
  • Vacuum devices
  • Prosthesis

However, these methods should only ever be considered if all other treatment options have failed. 

There are many options available when it comes to treating ED. Some men may choose to try medication, while others may only require an honest conversation with their partner. It’s important to remember that ED can be caused by a great number of things, and so if you’re suffering, it’s worth taking some time to figure out the best treatment for you.

Lifestyle changes

There are many lifestyle changes that you can make that could help reduce the effects or risk of erectile dysfunction. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Reducing your intake of junk foods
  • Quitting smoking, and recreational drugs and reducing your alcohol intake
  • Reducing your stress levels
  • Exercising more

These easy lifestyle modifications can dramatically improve your physical and overall health, lowering your risk of acquiring problems like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, both of which can lead to ED. Having good overall health reduces the likelihood of needing prescription medication, too. The less medication you take, the less likely you are to experience any side effects which may induce ED.

Erectile dysfunction myths

When it comes to erectile dysfunction, there are a few common misconceptions and associated stigmas that surround this condition.

Erectile dysfunction is linked to sexual attraction

A variation on the myth above is the belief that if a guy requires a medication like Viagra, it signifies he isn’t sexually attracted to his spouse. This is simply not true. To clarify, a man using medication for ED may still only achieve an erection if he is properly stimulated. 

If you’re having trouble obtaining and keeping an erection with your spouse because you think they’re physically unappealing, or if the problem stems from an unsolved psychological issue, using erectile dysfunction pills is unlikely to help.

Erectile dysfunction means you can NEVER get an erection

Another prevalent myth is that men suffering from ED can never achieve an erection. This is a common misconception — men suffering from erectile dysfunction may have a variety of symptoms, including any of the following:

  • You can’t get an erection at all.
  • You can achieve a mild erection, but it isn’t strong enough to penetrate your partner.
  • You can achieve an erection, but you can’t maintain it throughout the entire duration of a sexual encounter.

Erectile dysfunction is only found in older males

Erectile dysfunction is commonly thought to affect exclusively older men and to be a normal aspect of ageing that must be tolerated. Erectile dysfunction can strike men of any age. It just becomes more prevalent as we get older. Erectile dysfunction affects around half of the males between the ages of 40 and 70. This figure rises as one approaches the age of 70, with 7 out of every 10 males thought to be affected.

Taking Viagra will mean you will have an erection until it wears off

The most common misconception about erectile dysfunction, particularly in popular culture, is that therapies like Viagra cause an erection. In reality, this is not the case. An erection cannot be achieved or sustained without the proper arousal or sexual stimulus. The active chemicals in the three primary therapies (Sildenafil, Tadalafil, and Vardenafil) do not immediately cause an erection. When correctly aroused, they open the veins, allowing blood to flow more easily and effectively to the penis. In essence, you might take Sildenafil or Tadalafil and yet not obtain an erection if you lack the requisite sexual excitement.

Where do these myths come from?

When you consider how mainstream culture constantly feeds these views through movies, television, and comedy acts, it’s not surprising that these myths and stigmas around erectile dysfunction remain. It may entertain us with a brief laugh, but it also reinforces stereotypes such as:

  • Embarrassment around seeking treatment
  • ED medication can be used as a substitute for natural sexual arousal
  • Only older men require ED medication

As we get older, the possibility of our bodies failing grows, as do our chances of experiencing erectile dysfunction. Our eyesight might deteriorate similarly as we age. The distinction is that there is no stigma associated with wearing glasses, contact lenses, or undergoing laser eye surgery to correct the latter. So, why is there still a stigma in our culture that shames a man into believing he can’t have a broader, more joyful sex life if erectile dysfunction strikes?