Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is the inability of a man to attain and maintain an erection long enough to have sex. What causes this? What should a man experience as symptoms so he knows that he has ED? Is there a treatment that will work?
An erection occurs as a response to an arousing touch, smell, sound or sight. When such a stimulus occurs, the information is sent to the penile tissue via the nervous system which also regulates the blood flow into the penile tissue. This regulation is done by the release of certain chemicals in the body all of which work towards enhancing the blood supply to the muscles in the penis and this result in increased firmness of the organ which is what is referred to as an erection.
As can be seen in the physiology of an erection explained in the previous paragraph, an erection involves many things. When one or more of these things involved is disrupted, erectile dysfunction occurs. The causes of ED therefore range from psychological causes to physical ones.
Psychological causes are those that affect the functioning of the brain and in turn prevent arousal and so the penis does not respond. Among the common psychological causes are depression, stress, relationship issues, performance anxiety and many more. It is important to note that the fear of not being able to attain an erection in any man results in anxiety which leads to worsening of the condition.
Physical causes on the other hand are those that affect the physical functioning of the penis and other organs involved in ensuring successful erections. ED is many at times due to diseases and other times as a side effect of drug usage.
The diseases commonly associated with erectile dysfunction are those that affect blood supply to the penis and those that affect the production of necessary hormones. Some examples are: high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, high cholesterol which may lead to the narrowing of blood vessels supplying blood to the penile tissue (atherosclerosis), low male hormone level, obesity and Peyronie’s disease. Diseases affecting the nervous system functioning such as epilepsy, stroke and multiple sclerosis may also lead to ED. Hormonal disorders that may also result in ED include hypogonadism which leads to low testosterone levels and hyperthyroidism.
The most common sign that you may be suffering from erectile dysfunction is the inability to get an erection. Others are able to attain an erection but cannot keep it whereas others experience a reduced sexual desire.
The best way to ascertain this is to visit a doctor who will carry out the necessary tests to determine if you are really suffering from ED. These will include a lengthy interview, physical examination and some laboratory tests which will be useful in determining the cause of the condition and dictate the treatment method to be used.
The treatment given will depend on the actual cause of the ED. If it is due to psychological problems like stress and depression, no medication will help you. A therapy session is the best way to treat this kind of erectile dysfunction since in most instances the penis functioning is okay, it is just that you are not getting aroused.
For physical causes, there is wide range of treatment methods from oral pills to complicated surgeries. The first thing the doctor has to ensure is that any underlying conditions which may be causing or worsening the ED are treated by prescribing the necessary medications.
Oral medications used to treat Erectile Dysfunction include Sildenafil, Tadalafil, Avanafil and Vardenafil. All these are phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors which work to prolong the effects of nitric oxide, a chemical produced during sexual stimulation that causes relaxation of the muscles and an increase in blood supply resulting in firmer erections that last longer. The dosages for each of these differ but they need to be taken every day before sexual encounters within 30 minutes or an hour before sex.
Another kind of therapy is injections which are done directly on the penis. A fine needle is used to inject papaverine, phentolamine or alprostadil into the base or side of the penis. Another treatment option is the placing of a small Alprostadil suppository in the urethra of the penis. The effects are felt within 10 minutes after the application and usually last for up to an hour.
As for surgical procedures they include the use of implants which are used as the last resort. The implants used include semi-rigid and inflatable implants. The prior keep the penis firm but bendable whereas the latter allow a man to control when they can have an erection. Blood vessel surgeries are also carried out when penile arteries are blocked.