What is erectile dysfunction (ED) and how to prevent or reverse ED?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse. It’s sometimes referred to as impotence, although this term is now used less often.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) becomes more common as men age. But it is not necessarily a normal part of aging. Occasional ED isn’t uncommon. Many men experience it during times of stress. Frequent ED, however, can be a sign of health problems that need treatment. It can also be a sign of emotional or relationship difficulties that may need to be addressed by a professional.
What causes an erection?
ED can occur because of problems at any stage of the erection process. An erection is the result of increased blood flow into your penis. Blood flow is usually stimulated by either sexual thoughts or direct contact with your penis.
From time to time, most men have trouble getting or keeping an erection that is firm and long-lasting enough for satisfying sex. There may be several reasons for this erectile dysfunction (ED), and usually it’s temporary. But, even if the episode doesn’t last long and erectile function returns, it can still be upsetting and embarrassing for men.
When a man is sexually excited, muscles in the penis relax. This allows for increased blood flow through the penile arteries, filling two chambers inside the penis. As the chambers fill with blood, the penis grows rigid.
An erection ends when the muscles contract and the accumulated blood can flow out through the penile veins.
Erectile dysfunction causes
There are many possible causes of ED, and they can include both emotional and physical conditions. Common causes include:
hypertension, or high blood pressure
low testosterone levels or other hormone imbalances
certain prescription medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure or depression
consuming too much alcohol
using tobacco products
certain health conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis (MS)
damage to the pelvic area through injury or surgery
Peyronie’s disease, which causes scar tissue to develop in the penis
ED can be caused by only one of these factors or by several of them. That’s why it’s important to work with your doctor so that they can rule out or treat any underlying medical conditions. Learn more about the causes of ED.
Erectile dysfunction treatment or prevention
Treatment for ED will depend on the underlying cause. You may need to use a combination of treatments, including medication or talk therapy.
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Your doctor may prescribe medication to help you manage the symptoms of ED. You may need to try several medications before you find one that works. The following oral medications stimulate blood flow to your penis to help treat ED:
Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
Kamagra is another medication that can be used to treat ED. It can be administered in two ways: as a penile suppository or as a self-injection at the base or side of the penis.
Testosterone therapy (TRT) may also be recommended if you have low levels of testosterone.
Medications used for other conditions may cause ED. Talk to your doctor about your medications and whether they could be causing your symptoms. There may be others that you can take instead. Never stop taking medications without first talking to your doctor.
Medications for ED can cause side effects. If you’re experiencing unpleasant side effects, talk to your doctor. They may be able to recommend a different medication. Get more information on the medications used to treat ED.
Erectile dysfunction symptoms
You may have ED if you regularly have:
trouble getting an erection
difficulty maintaining an erection during sexual activities
reduced interest in sex
Other sexual disorders related to ED include:
anorgasmia, or the inability to achieve orgasm after ample stimulation
Speak with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, especially if they’ve lasted for 3 or more months. They can help determine whether your symptoms are caused by an underlying condition that requires treatment.
Erectile dysfunction tests
Testing for ED can involve a variety of steps, including a physical examination and taking your health and sexual history. Additional tests may be performed to determine if your symptoms are caused by an underlying condition.
You should expect a physical exam where your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs, check your blood pressure, and examine your testicles and penis. They may also recommend a rectal exam to check your prostate.
Your doctor will ask you questions or request that you fill out a questionnaire about your symptoms, health history, and sexual history. The responses can help them evaluate the severity of your ED.
Some questions that you may be asked include:
How long have you been experiencing ED? Did it come on suddenly or gradually?
Are you having any problems with feeling sexual desire, ejaculating, or reaching orgasm?
How often do you have sex? Has this frequency changed recently?
How firm are your erections? Is this affected by particular situations or types of stimulation?
Do you wake up in the morning or in the middle of the night with erections?
How’s your current relationship? What expectations do you and your partner have for each other? Have there been any changes?
Have you recently been experiencing a lot of stress?
What medications are you currently taking? Do you use tobacco, alcohol, or non-prescription drugs?
Do you have any underlying conditions or have you had any surgery on or injury to your pelvic area?