A major concern for aging men is the changes that they may experience in their sexual health during their old age. One of such issues is erectile dysfunction, otherwise referred to as impotence. It is important to note, however that erectile dysfunction can also affect men of younger ages too.
This article summarises what erectile dysfunction is all about, what causes normal erection, what causes erectile dysfunction, the signs and symptoms, and how you can treat the problem.
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence, is the inability of a man to have and maintain an erection strong enough for sexual intercourse. It affects the elderly above 60 years or more, but can also be seen among middle-aged men. Research shows that ED is common and affects about 40% of men.
It is not old age that causes erectile dysfunction, but rather, certain health risk factors and emotional factors that are associated with old age can predispose you to developing erectile dysfunction as. Other sexual problems related to erectile dysfunction include premature ejaculation, delayed or absent ejaculation and inability to get orgasms (anorgasmia). You should consult your doctor if you are having any concerns about your erections for medical advice and treatment.
Once in a while, men may experience some difficulty in having or maintaining an erection due to temporary psychological factors like stress, but when this becomes a persistent problem for you for some time, it is diagnosed as erectile dysfunction. This can lead to reduced self-confidence as a man and relationship problems with your partner.
Normal Penile Erection
The penis is made up of spongy tissues called corpora carvanosa and is richly supplied with blood vessels and nerves. Erection is achieved when enough blood flows through the blood vessels in the penis to supply the tissues in the penis. This can be stimulated when there is physical contact with the shaft of the shaft of the penis or through erotic thoughts, both of which send impulses to the muscles of the penis to relax in order to allow blood flow sufficiently through the penile arteries to give and erection. An erection disappears when the muscle of the penis contracts to empty the blood flow into the penile veins.
Males can have an erection at anytime when stimulated. Night erections when sleeping is normal due to a more relaxed state of mind and body muscles when asleep. Males can have between 4 – 6 nocturnal erections (at night) which is considered normal.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
Getting an erection involves the brain, nerves, hormones, emotions, blood vessels and penile muscles. Anything that can interfere with any of these can cause erectile dysfunction. These causes can be physical (or medical health problems), psychological / emotional, or a combination of the two.
90% of erectile dysfunction in males is caused by physical or medical related health issues in the man and certain lifestyle issues. These causes include
- Heart disease
- Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome — a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist and high cholesterol
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Certain prescription medications
- Tobacco use
- Peyronie’s disease — development of scar tissue inside the penis
- Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse
- Sleep disorders
- Treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate
- Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord
Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction mainly interfere with the brain’s key role in triggering the series of physical events that cause an erection, starting with feelings of sexual excitement. These include:
- Depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions
- Relationship problems due to stress, poor communication or other concerns
How Can You Detect the Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction?
There are no much accompanying symptoms of erectile dysfunction apart from the obvious which includes
- Persistent inability to have an erection.
- Having difficulty maintaining an erection long enough during sexual activity with your spouse.
- A general lack of sexual interest.
See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. There are several tests that can be done to determine whether your erectile dysfunction is due to an underlying health problem or a psychological one and the right treatment can commence.
Can Erectile Dysfunction be Treated?
Yes, erectile dysfunction can be treated and is also preventable. The following healthy lifestyle habits may prevent ED, and in some situations reverse the condition:
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a low blood pressure.
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
- Reduce your stress.
The treatment options for erectile dysfunction depends on the underlying cause of the problem. There are medications that can help improve blood flow for erections and in extreme cases, some surgical procedures can be done. Talking to a therapist can help in the management of erectile dysfunction due to psychological or emotional factors.
Be careful about buying unregulated herbs and supplements for erectile dysfunction. Consult with your your doctor first before taking any such drugs. Your doctor can advise you on using certain medical devices that are available to help with getting erections or can prescribe for you any of these regulated medications to use
- alprostadil ( Caverject )
- avanafil ( Stendra )
- sildenafil ( Viagra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- testosterone (Androderm)
- vardenafil ( Levitra )
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