Also called impotence, erectile dysfunction is a medical condition in which a man is unable to get and keep his penis erect for satisfactory sexual activity. It can strike men of all ages, but is more common in men who are over 40 years old. A study found that as soon as a man reaches the age of 40, his chances of getting erectile dysfunction is at 40%, and, once he gets to 70, his odds shoot up to 70%.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
When it comes to sexual arousal in men, there are complex processes that occur that involve different parts of the body, including the brain, nerves, hormones, blood vessels, and muscles. If any one of these is not working right, there is a possibility of developing erectile dysfunction or some other health problem.
The causes of erectile dysfunction can be classified into physical and psychological. Below are examples:
- High blood pressure
Also known as hypertension, this problem arises due to the higher pressure that your heart and blood vessels is exposed to, and raises your risk of a stroke or a heart attack.
- Cardiovascular disease
These are illnesses that are brought about by blocked or narrowed blood vessels, making you prone to a stroke, heart attack, or angina.
This disease is characterized by higher than normal blood glucose or blood sugar levels in the body. Among its common symptoms include increase thirst and urination, exhaustion, vision problems, and slow rate of wound healing.
- Sleep problems
Sleep apnea, sleep deprivation, and insomnia are examples of prevalent sleep problems that prevent a person from getting sufficient sleep every night. They cause a variety of side effects, such as poor concentration and memory, mood swings, and low energy levels.
Being stressed triggers several physical symptoms that can negatively impact your day-to-day life. Usually, a stressed individual experiences headaches, muscle pains, increased heart rate, low energy, infections, and lack of sex drive.
- Mental health problems
There are different types of mental health problems that affect one in four people every year. A couple of the most common ones are anxiety and depression, and some rare ones are bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?
Men who suffer from erectile dysfunction manifest the following symptoms:
- Have trouble getting and/or maintaining an erection
- Decreased libido or sex drive
If you experience these, you are likely to be afflicted with this disorder. You should go see a doctor right away to get an official diagnosis.
At the doctor’s office, you may be asked a number of questions regarding your sex life to help evaluate your condition. It is important that you provide honest answers for accurate diagnosis. Here are examples of queries that you may get:
- When did you first experience problems with your erection?
- How long has it been bothering you?
- How sexually active are you right now?
- In a scale of 1 to 10 with 10, how firm or hard are your erections?
- Does the firmness of your erections vary depending on the circumstance, such as if you are masturbating, receiving oral, or having sex with different partners?
- Do you feel penis pain when penetrating?
- Are you having trouble achieving orgasm or ejaculating?
In addition to these erectile-specific questions, you may be asked a few more that focus on your medical history and lifestyle habits. You should be ready to inform your doctor about any past surgical procedures you have been through, prescription medications that you have taken, recreational drugs that you have tried, and your alcohol or smoking habits.
Also, you will have to undergo some screening tests to detect any underlying disease that may be causing your erectile dysfunction. Your doctor may give you the following tests:
- Physical examination
for a close examination of your penis, testicles, and nerves
- Blood test
to look for any signs of low testosterone levels, diabetes, and other health problems using your blood sample
- Urine test
to look for any signs of diabetes or any other medical issues using your urine sample
to check if there are blockages in the blood vessels that may disrupt blood flow to your penis and cause the erectile issues
- Mental health check
because some cases of erectile dysfunction are due to poor mental health, your doctor may require you to undergo a psychological exam to verify
What should you do to improve erectile dysfunction?
Usually, health professionals recommend two treatment solutions for erectile dysfunction — by taking oral medications and by making a lifestyle change.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of oral phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors or PDE5 inhibitors as a first-line of treatment for erectile dysfunction. The common generic brands available today are:
These medications can lower blood pressure levels in the body, suppress headaches and nausea, and fix the body’s erectile mechanisms for better performance in the bedroom.
For men whose erectile dysfunction are a result of poor lifestyle choices and habits, committing to living a healthy lifestyle by doing the following should tremendously help improve their condition:
The excess fats and pounds in the body endangers the heart and blood flow to the penis, so start losing weight by eating more fruits and vegetables, and foods that contain healthy proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
More physical activity
Living a sedentary lifestyle can be harmful to your health over time, so try to be more active everyday. You should establish a regular exercise or workout routine that can work your heart, lungs, muscles, and other vital parts to promote better blood flow to your penis and boost your stamina and endurance for sex.
No more alcohol, drugs, and smoking
Abuse of alcohol, illegal drugs, and cigarettes not only can increase your risk of heart, lung, liver, and brain diseases, but they can also bring about erectile dysfunction and other long-term, life-threatening conditions.