Erectile Dysfunction

Published: December 31, 2018

What is it?

Erectile Dysfunction, commonly referred to as ED, occurs when a man is unable to achieve or sustain an erection that is firm enough for sex.

Who does it impact?

Most men have occasional issues with erections, but some men struggle to maintain erections on a more regular basis. In fact, ED affects approximately 30 million men – or about half of men over 40. (1) 

What causes it? 

Although ED becomes more common as men age, aging itself isn’t typically the cause of ED. It occurs for a variety of reasons and can be an early sign of a more serious health condition. (1) 

Health issues: 

Chronic illness, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, peripheral neuropathy and high cholesterol can reduce blood flow or cause nerve damage that can contribute to ED. Fatigue, certain medications, and pelvic injuries or surgeries can also be factors. 

Emotional issues: 

Stress, anxiety, and depression can cause erection difficulties. 

Lifestyle choices: 

Smoking, drug or alcohol abuse can inhibit blood flow to the penis, making it difficult to obtain an erection. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle or carrying excess weight can also lead to erection problems.

Prevention?

By avoiding the lifestyle factors that contribute to ED, you may be able to improve your symptoms. Quitting smoking, limiting excessive drinking and maintaining a healthy weight can be helpful. In addition, consider talking to your doctor about your medications. In some cases, adjustments to your prescriptions can help with ED – but you should never adjust your medications without first consulting your physician. (1) 

Treatment?

Your treatment plan will vary based on the underlying cause of your ED. If a lifestyle choice is the culprit, your doctor may work with you to pursue a healthier lifestyle which can in turn relieve symptoms. When emotional issues like depression or anxiety are at work, your physician can recommend potential treatments to better support your mental health. 

In some cases ED has a more physical cause and your doctor may determine that oral drugs for increasing blood flow are the best solution for your particular situation. There are also treatments that are administered directly onto or into the penis to create an erection. These therapies include the use of a vacuum erection device, self-injection therapy, or intraurethral therapy. (1) 

The bottom line?

Millions of men have Erectile Dysfunction and there are a variety of physiological factors that contribute to the symptoms. There is no need to be embarrassed if you have ED symptoms.

Erection issues could be an indicator of related health issues that need medical attention. ED shouldn’t be ignored because it can indicate neurological disorders or heart disease.

At Virginia Urology, your physician will help determine the cause of and solution for your ED, while treating you with the utmost discretion and respect. 

(1) https://www.urologyhealth.org/educational-materials