Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when a man has persistent problems achieving and/or sustaining an erection. Erectile dysfunction can make sexual intercourse impossible without treatment. Erectile dysfunction can first emerge in a man as early as 40, according to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study on sexual dysfunction. About 30 million men are affected by erectile dysfunction, according to the National Institute of Health.
Does Erectile Dysfunction Mean Poor Libido?
Erectile dysfunction refers specifically to problems achieving or maintaining an erection. Other forms of male sexual dysfunction include poor libido and problems with ejaculation. Men with erectile dysfunction often have a healthy libido, but their bodies fail to respond in the sexual encounter by producing an erection. Usually there is a physical basis for the problem.
Can Low Testosterone (Low T) Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
While low T isn't the only cause of erectile dysfunction, the two do seem to be connected. However, the connection between low testosterone and erectile dysfunction is complicated. Researchers believe the two are connected because they both seem to coincide as a man ages. However, some men with low testosterone continue to produce healthy erections.
Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms
Symptoms of erectile dysfunction include erections that are too soft for sexual intercourse, erections that last only briefly, and an inability to achieve erections. Men who cannot have or maintain an erection at least 75% of the time that they attempt sex are considered to have erectile dysfunction.
Who Gets Erectile Dysfunction?
Sexual dysfunction is more common as men age. According to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, about 40% of men experience some degree of inability to have or maintain an erection at age 40 compared with 70% of men at age 70. And the percentage of men with erectile dysfunction increases from 5% to 15% as age increases from 40 to 70 years. erectile dysfunction can be treated at any age.
The Mechanics Behind Erectile Dysfunction
When blood fills two chambers in the penis (known as the corpora cavernosa) an erection occurs. This causes the penis to expand and stiffen, much like a balloon as it is filled with water. The process is triggered by nerve impulses from the brain and genital area. Anything that interferes with these impulses or restricts blood flow to the penis can result in erectile dysfunction.
What ED Treatment Options Are Available?
In many cases, diagnosing erectile dysfunction requires little more than a physical exam and a review of your symptoms. If your doctor suspects that an underlying health problem may be at play, however, they may request additional testing. Once you’ve determined the cause for your ED, you and your doctor can decide on a form of treatment.
Here are some of the options:
Erectile Dysfunction Drugs – Medications like sildenafil (Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®) and vardenafil (Levitra®) stimulate blood flow to the penis, enabling you to achieve an erection. These drugs need to be taken prior to engaging in sexual activity.
Psychotherapy – For psychological causes of erectile dysfunction, psychotherapy can be beneficial. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular method because it helps address negative patterns of thought that can contribute to performance anxiety.
Vacuum Constriction Devices – An alternative to oral medications, vacuum constriction devices can create an erection using vacuum pressure — once an erection develops, a constriction band is placed around the base of the penis to maintain the erection.
Surgery – One of the more invasive treatments for erectile dysfunction, surgical options also exist. Inflatable devices or malleable rods can be surgically implanted on either side of the penis to help achieve an erection.
Lifestyle Changes – In cases where lifestyle factors such as obesity, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise play into erectile dysfunction, making health changes to your lifestyle may resolve the underlying conditions causing your symptoms.
When choosing an erectile dysfunction treatment, you should take your time. There are many options available, and while none of them are perfect, some may be a better fit for you than others. Before you start a course of treatment, be sure to tell your doctor about any drugs or supplements you may be taking and keep an eye out for side effects.
Erectile dysfunction may be an unpleasant condition that no one really wants to talk about, failing to acknowledge it won’t make the problem go away. Your best defense against health problems like this is to learn everything you can about it so you can tackle the problem at the root. If you’re ready to stop living in embarrassment about your sexual function, become an advocate for yourself and your own health and talk to your doctor.