How Does An Erection Occur?
An erection starts with sensory motivation (for whatever reason), which causes impulses to travel from the brain to spinal cord and then right down to the nerves in the penis area.
On receiving the impulses, the penile nerves relax causing blood to flow into the spongy tissues that are situated in the penis. The pressure caused by the blood flow leads to an erection.
Next, the membranes surrounding the spongy tissues trap the blood in the penis and this helps a man maintain his erection until climax, after which the blood flow to the penis is stopped.
Anything that plays with this impulse-communication and blood-flow-and-retention sequence can cause ED.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?
Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is a condition that prevents a man from achieving or maintaining an erection that is sufficient for successful sexual intercourse.
Aging, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and a few other conditions can cause impotence. These causes are described in another section.
Is Erectile Dysfunction The Same As Premature Ejaculation?
No. Premature ejaculation refers to a condition in which a man experiences arousal, erection and climax within a few minutes or seconds. Neither partner is sexually satisfied.
What Are The Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction?
It can be caused by physical, lifestyle and psychological factors. Some medications can lead to impotence. Stress and anxiety, smoking and drinking can also cause the condition.
Once any man experiences erectile dysfunction, his problems multiply and he experiences performance anxiety, which must be treated in time.
50% of erectile dysfunction cases in men over 50 happen because of heart problems, which include choked arteries, heart attack, blood circulation problems and high blood pressure.
People who cycle for long periods and on a regular basis can also be impacted by impotence.
Diabetes, kidney failure, liver cirrhosis, excess iron in the blood, cancer, nervous system diseases, respiratory diseases, endocrine conditions, depression, penile conditions, certain medications (including anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and hormonal medicines), surgical procedures on brain, spinal cord, penis and prostate, can also cause the condition. Physical damage to arteries, muscles and tissues can also cause ED.
Malnutrition, performance anxiety (see above), zinc deficiency, blood diseases, and substances such as cocaine and marijuana also can cause impotence. People also experience lack of sexual desire as they age.
How Does A Physician Diagnose ED?
ED should be treated before it balloons up. The physician first interviews the patient, reads his medical and psycho-social histories, and then conducts a physical examination.
Here are the steps that a patient has to go through:
- The physician asks the patient, in minute detail, about his erection issues – Whether it is sufficient, whether it can be maintained, whether both partners are satisfied, etc.
- The physician goes through the patient’s medical history and checks his current medications.
- The physician then checks the patient’s lifestyle, and also focuses on his tobacco and alcohol usage.
- Then, he checks for depression and other signs like anxiety and stress.
- The patient’s relationship with his partner is then researched. The doctor will want to know if the patient’s partner knows that he is seeking help for ED.
- Next, the doctor physically examines the patient. The doctor examines the genitals and the nervous, urinary and vascular systems. He also checks the patient’s blood pressure.
- A hormone status test, glucose test, cholesterol/triglycerides test and prostate-related tests also may be ordered. A urine test that checks for protein and glucose may be ordered.
- The physician also may order an ultrasound examination of the abdomen area.
By now, the physician would have figured out the likely cause of ED. He may order additional penile-related tests, if necessary. All patients must truthfully bare their souls to their physicians.
How Is ED Treated?
The first step is to find an experienced doctor who empathizes with the patient and gives him adequate time. When the patient becomes comfortable, he discusses his condition in detail, which is vital for resolution.
The patient can see his primary care doctor or an urologist.
Men can get ED treated by:
- (a) Sex counseling
- (b) Medicine
- (c) Vacuum-based penile devices
- (d) Hormone replacement therapy
- (e) Penile injections
- (f) Surgery (involving penile implants)
- (g) Viagra, which as you know, is a pill. However, Viagra needs sexual stimulus to work.
- (h) Herbal ingredients such as Yohimbine are also known to help. However, these herbs work like a placebo.
- (i) Male enhancement exercises will help as well. Moreover, majority of doctors recommend exercises as one of the best and cheapest option.
Special mention must be made of vacuum penile devices, which have been successful in treating ED. These devices are safe and typically work by enhancing blood flow to the penis. Medicines are less predictable.
Can ED Be Prevented?
Yes, by reducing stress and anxiety, leading a healthy lifestyle sans alcohol and tobacco, and by adopting a “casual and relaxed” approach to sex. Creating the right environment for sex and indulging in foreplay also helps. Partner compatibility also plays a big part.
Why Do Men Avoid The Problem?
Because it involves their pride and ego and they don’t want to talk about it. According to statistics, only 10% of ED-impacted men seek treatment. Men, actually, should be more forthcoming if they don’t want to suffer.
Are Young Men Impacted Too?
Yes, younger men can suffer from this condition as well. In USA, 5% of men in their 40s are affected. The percentage starts creeping up thereafter and by the age of 65, up to 25% of men suffer from ED. Aging takes its toll too and the percentage keeps rising as people age.
Can ED Go Away Without Being Treated?
Yes, sometimes, especially when it is caused by stress or injury. It goes away when the situation that leads to stress is resolved or when the injury has healed. However, all men should know that:
- (a) ED is normal and can occur when there are significant changes in a man’s life
- (b) Men should get the condition treated instead of withdrawing into a shell because ED can be a symptom of a deadly problem, such as cardiovascular disease or cancer.