What is erectile dysfunction (ED)?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. It’s sometimes referred to as impotence, although this term is now used less often.
Occasional ED isn’t uncommon. Many people experience it during times of stress. Frequent ED, however, can be a sign of health problems that need treatment. It can also be a sign of emotional or relationship difficulties that you may want to address with a professional.
Read this full article with PK Halder for gaining more knowledge about Erectile dysfunction (ED).
What causes an erection?
ED can occur because of problems at any stage of the erection process. An erection is the result of increased blood flow into your penis. Blood flow is usually stimulated by either sexual thoughts or direct contact with your penis.
When a person with a penis is sexually excited, a muscle within the blood vessels in the penis relaxes. This allows for increased blood flow through the penile arteries, filling two chambers inside the penis. As the chambers fill with blood, the penis grows rigid.
An erection ends when the muscles in the blood vessels contract and the accumulated blood can flow out through the penile veins.
How common is ED?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, around 30 million U.S. men have ED.
The prevalence of ED increases with age. The University of Wisconsin estimates that mild or moderate ED affects 10 percent more men for each decade of life. For example, 60 percent of men in their 60s might experience some form of ED.
However, ED can also occur among younger people. One 2013 study found that 1 in 4 men seeking their first treatment for ED was under 40 years old. Researchers observed a stronger correlation between smoking, drug use, and ED in these men when compared with older men. This suggests that lifestyle choices are an important factor for ED in younger men.
Although the risk of ED increases with age, ED isn’t inevitable. In general, the healthier you are, the better your sexual function. Learn more about aging and ED.
If you have diabetes, it’s important that you work with your doctor to manage your blood sugar levels. This can help to prevent damage that can lead to ED. Explore the connection between ED and type 2 diabetes.
Erectile dysfunction causes
There are many possible causes of ED, and they can include both emotional and physical conditions. Common causes include:
- cardiovascular disease
- hypertension, or high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- low testosterone levels or other hormone imbalances
- kidney disease
- increased age
- relationship problems
- certain prescription medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure or depression
- sleep disorders
- drug use
- consuming too much alcohol
- using tobacco products
- Parkinson’s disease
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- damage to the pelvic area through injury or surgery
- Peyronie’s disease, which causes scar tissue to develop in the penis
ED can be caused by only one of these factors or by several of them. That’s why it’s important to work with your doctor so that they can rule out or treat any underlying medical conditions. Learn more about the causes of ED.
Erectile dysfunction diagnosis
Testing for ED can involve a variety of steps, including a physical examination and examining your health and sexual history. Your doctor may order additional tests to determine if your symptoms are caused by an underlying condition.
Expect a physical exam, where your doctor will:
- listen to your heart and lungs
- check your blood pressure
- examine your testicles and penis
They may also recommend a rectal exam to check your prostate.
Your doctor will ask you questions or request that you fill out a questionnaire about your symptoms, health history, and sexual history. The responses can help them evaluate the severity of your ED.
Some questions that they may ask include:
- How long have you been experiencing ED? Did it come on suddenly or gradually?
- Are you having any problems with feeling sexual desire, ejaculating, or reaching orgasm?
- How often do you have sex? Has this frequency changed recently?
- How firm are your erections? Is this affected by particular situations or types of stimulation?
- Do you wake up in the morning or in the middle of the night with erections?
- How’s your current relationship? What expectations do you and your partner have for each other? Have there been any changes?
- Have you recently been experiencing a lot of stress?
- What medications are you currently taking? Do you use tobacco, alcohol, or nonprescription drugs?
- Do you have any underlying conditions or have you had any surgery on or injury to your pelvic area?
Your doctor may perform additional testing to help diagnose your ED. Tests can include:
- An ultrasound can be used to examine the blood vessels of the penis to determine if there’s a problem with penile blood flow.
- Nocturnal penile tumescence test. A portable, battery-powered device, worn on the thigh, is used to evaluate the quality of your nocturnal erections. The device stores data which your doctor can access later.
- Injection test. During this test, a medication is injected into your penis to stimulate an erection. This allows your doctor to evaluate the firmness of the erection and how long it lasts. This type of test can also be combined with ultrasound to further asses the erection.
- Urine tests. Urine tests can check for diabetes or other underlying health conditions.
- Blood tests. Blood tests can check for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, thyroid issues, and low levels of testosterone.
These tests can help your doctor guide your treatment as well as determine if an underlying condition may be causing your ED. Find out more about how blood tests can help diagnose ED.
Erectile dysfunction treatment
Treatment for ED will depend on the underlying cause. You may need to use a combination of treatments, including medication or talk therapy.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to help you manage the symptoms of ED. You may need to try several medications before you find one that works. The following oral medications stimulate blood flow to your penis to help treat ED:
- avanafil (Stendra)
- sildenafil (Viagra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
Alprostadil (Caverject, Edex, MUSE) is another medication that can be used to treat ED. It can be administered in two ways: as a penile suppository, or as a self-injection at the base or side of the penis.
In most cases, however, alprostadil is not used alone as an injection, and the combination drug Trimix (alprostadil, phentolamine, papaverine) is used instead.
Your doctor may recommend testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) if you have low levels of testosterone.
Medications used for other conditions may cause ED. Talk with your doctor about your medications and whether they could be causing your symptoms. There may be others that you can take instead. Never stop taking medications without first talking with your doctor.
Medications for ED can cause side effects. If you’re experiencing unpleasant side effects, talk with your doctor. They may be able to recommend a different medication. Get more information on the medications used to treat ED.
Find Roman ED medication online.
A number of psychological factors can cause ED, including:
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
If you’re experiencing psychological ED, you may benefit from talk therapy. Over several sessions, you and your therapist will discuss:
- major stress or anxiety factors
- your feelings around sex
- subconscious conflicts that could be affecting your sexual well-being
If ED is affecting your relationship, consider speaking with a relationship counselor as well. Relationship counseling can help you and your partner reconnect emotionally, which may also help your ED. Explore the effects of stress and anxiety on ED.
This treatment uses the creation of a vacuum to stimulate an erection. Using the device draws blood into the penis, leading to an erection.
A vacuum pump device consists of a few different components:
- a plastic tube, which you place over your penis
- a pump, which works to create the vacuum by drawing air out of the plastic tube
- an elastic ring, which you’ll move to the base of your penis as you remove the plastic tube
The elastic ring functions to maintain the erection, holding the blood in the penis and preventing it from returning to circulation. You can leave it in place for 30 minutes.
Erectile dysfunction symptoms
Trouble getting an erection and difficulty maintaining an erection during sexual activities are the most common symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
Other sexual disorders related to ED include:
- premature ejaculation
- delayed ejaculation
- anorgasmia, or the inability to achieve orgasm after ample stimulation
Speak with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, especially if they’ve lasted for 3 or more months. They can help determine whether your symptoms are caused by an underlying condition that requires treatment.
Erectile dysfunction natural treatments
For some people, natural remedies may help treat ED.
Herbs and supplements
Certain herbs and supplements have been studied to treat ED, with varying degrees of success, including:
- dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
- ginseng, such as Korean red ginseng
Horny goat weed and zinc may help as well.
Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine in which needles are inserted into the skin at specific locations or acupoints. Acupuncture is believed to work through nerve stimulation, which then has an effect on the release of neurotransmitters.
It’s unclear how acupuncture works to treat ED. Studies on its effectiveness are limited, and the ones that do exist are often inconclusive. Some evidence from a 2019 review indicates that acupuncture may help to treat psychological ED.
When choosing an acupuncturist, look for a certified practitioner who uses disposable needles and follows FDA guidelines for needle disposal and sterilization. Learn more about the use of acupuncture in treating ED.