Diseases & Conditions

Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile DysfunctionCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction or ED signifies the inability to sustain a hard erection long enough to indulge in the act of coitus. Erectile dysfunction is prevalent commonly in the elderly, but it can occur at any time irrespective of age.

Causes of erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by both mental and physical factors. Depression as well as other types of mental conditions might make one lose all interest sexual intercourse. Other factors that can cause ED are hypertension, high cholesterol levels, arteriosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease etc, might cause erectile dysfunction too. Hormonal imbalances such as incidence of high or low thyroid hormone levels, and testosterone deficiencies might also create sufficient damage to cause erectile dysfunction in males.

Psychological causes such as stress, relationship problems concerned with romance and marriage are causes enough to develop ED. Lifestyle problems like addiction to tobacco, drugs and alcohol can prevent sufficient blood from flowing into the penis, resulting in ED. It can be downright embarrassing to tell your doctor about sexual issues. But it is worth your while to seek professional help to cure erectile dysfunction. Now there are treatments to restore erection ranging from medication to surgery. There might even be underlying causes for the condition like heart disease.

Medications for erectile dysfunction

Medications for erectile dysfunction can be had orally, injected straight into the male organ as also inserted down the urethra. The FDA approved the first ever pill to treat erectile dysfunction named Viagra. There followed Levitra and Cialis since then. All the abovementioned drugs are termed PDE or phosphodiesterase inhibitors. They are taken 60 minutes prior to having sex and work by increasing the effects of the chemical nitric oxide that relaxes the smooth penile muscles at the time of sexual stimulation, thereby allowing increased amounts of blood to flow into the penile vessels. However, these drugs cannot produce an automatic erection like injections with drugs like Caverjet can do. A word of caution though: these are prescription drugs and should be taken only on the advice of a qualified physician.

Prevention of erectile dysfunction

Avoiding anti-depressant drugs as far as possible is one way to prevent erectile dysfunction. Getting rid of psychological problems if any, by psychiatric counseling can also help. Quitting smoking or cutting down the same drastically can go a long way in curing erectile dysfunction as nicotine develops arterial narrowing and thereby cause impotence.

Risk factors for erectile dysfunction

If erectile dysfunction occurs only at times, it is not a cause for worry. On the contrary if the problem persists, it can bring about stress, relationship problems and even hurt one’s self-esteem. It can also be downright embarrassing to tell your doctor about sexual issues. Erectile dysfunction is a problem that should be taken seriously as it can lead to more critical health problems.

Symptoms of erectile dysfunction

The one characterisitic symptom of erectile dysfunction is regular or recurring inability to attain or sustain an erction. Erectile dysfunction can be analyzed in various ways.

Obtaining complete erections at times such as during sleep when one’s mental faculties as well as psychological issues are less active, tend to indicate that one’s physical structures are functioing properly.

Treatment for erectile dysfunction

Treatment for erectile dysfunction depends on the type of condition. If erectile dysfunction is due to hormonal deficiency, testosterone supplements can be used. However, ED is more due to a lack of sufficient blood supply to the penis because of damage to the inner walls of the penile blood vessels. Such damage occurs more in elderly people, particularly in those with diabetes.

Any treatment can be effective only on a temporary basis, except in the case of hormonal deficiency where teststerone supplement is found to be effective. They help in maintaining an erection long enough for coitus without improving the inherent condition permanently. Such drugs can be injected or taken orally and can enhance the effect of nitric oxide that dilates the penile blood vessels, specifically of corpora cavernosa.

If the pharmacological methods do not work to cure erectile dysfunction, an external vacuum pump designed specifically for the purpose may be made use of to gain erection along with a compression ring attached to the penis to sustain erection. However, these pumps cannot increase the size of the penis with frequent use, as is often claimed. More drastic treatment for erectile dysfunction consists of rigid or inflatable penile implants that can be surgically fitted. All such mechanical methods works on certain principles of hydraulics and are considered reliable, although they have some disadvantages.

Types of erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is of three types

  • A complete inability to gain erection
  • Inconsistent capacity to achieve erection
  • Tendency to maintain brief erections only