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Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is characterized by the inability to get or maintain an erection suitable for sexual intercourse. Erectile dysfunction is a common problem affecting up to 1 in 5 men in the USA. According to a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, erectile dysfunction, or ED affects about 18 million men in the United States.
Occasional trouble getting and maintaining an erection is not necessarily a cause for concern, but if ED is a recurring problem, treatment should be sought. Problems getting or keeping an erection can be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition like heart disease, and can contribute to stress, self-confidence, relationship problems and more.
Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a variety of factors, and is strongly correlated with conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There are a variety of treatments available for erectile dysfunction. Untreated erectile dysfunction can cause interruptions to a healthy sex life and may lower sexual confidence.
Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a variety of physical, lifestyle, and psychological factors. Each case of erectile dysfunction has unique circumstances. Sexual arousal is a complex process, which involves hormones, brain chemistry, emotions, nerves, muscles, blood vessels and self-confidence. ED can manifest as a result of an issue with any of these processes, or a combination. Stress and anxiety can exacerbate (or cause) ED—and when you have a confluence of factors impacting ability to maintain an erection, a bad, self-defeating cycle can begin whereby anxiety about one factor can worsen ED.
The following factors may contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction:
The following factors may affect your risk of developing erectile dysfunction:
Before arriving at a diagnosis of erectile dysfunction, your doctor will most likely conduct a combination of the following tests:
The following may be symptoms of erectile dysfunction:
The prognosis for erectile dysfunction depends largely on the cause(s) and the individual’s response to treatment. If the cause of ED is reversible and the patient is responsive to treatment, then it is likely that the ED can be resolved. If the cause of ED is not reversible and/or the patient is unresponsive to treatment, there is the chance that the condition cannot be resolved. To determine whether or not your case of erectile dysfunction can be treated, schedule a visit with your doctor.
The following tips can help you live a fuller life with erectile dysfunction:
Erectile dysfunction is not typically screened for, although general sexual health questionnaires may help doctors in recognizing ED. ED is most often self-reported by patients in special visits or general check-ups.
The following tips can help you prevent developing erectile dysfunction:
There are a number of treatment options for ED. Options range from oral medications to injections to surgical procedures; your doctor will help guide you to the right option for you, depending on the cause and severity of your ED, along with any other underlying health conditions.
Oral medications are the most common first-line medical treatment for erectile dysfunction in men—and are very successful at treating the condition. Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (PDE-5). This is a class of oral medications that works to relax the muscle cells within the penis to promote blood flow and enhance the length and rigidness of an erection. These medications are extremely effective and produce results in about 80% of men. It’s important to understand that taking one of these medicines will not produce an erection automatically—it just helps the body respond more normally to sexual stimulation. The medications listed below vary in potency and length of impact. Your physician will prescribe based on your particular circumstance, and will work with you to find the right efficacious dose.
The following are the available treatment methods for erectile dysfunction (ED):
Oral PDE-5 medications include:
Side effects of PDE-5 medications include:
Please not that oral medications for ED may not be right for you if you:
Take certain medications like nitrate drugs for chest pain, blood-thinners, certain high blood pressure medications
Testosterone replacement. Some men have erectile dysfunction that might be complicated by low levels of the hormone testosterone. In this case, testosterone replacement therapy might be recommended as the first step.
Self-injection medication. Alprostadil is a medication that is delivered either through self-injections in the side of the penis or intraurethral suppository. This is also a very effective medication, as approximately 85% of men see results.
Possible side effects of alprostradil:
Penis pump/vacuum. This is a device that fits over the penis and uses suction to create an erection, and a rubber band at the base of the penis to maintain the erection. About 75% of men who try the penis pump can achieve an erection.
If none of the above treatments are effective, the option of surgical implants may be explored. Surgical implants typically require inflation to achieve an erection, but their more or less permanent nature makes them a good option for men facing serious erectile dysfunction. Penile implants are typically implanted in an outpatient procedure that requires 4 to 8 weeks of recovery.
The following alternative treatments may prevent or diminish erectile dysfunction:
If you are experiencing occasional erectile dysfunction, contact a doctor if:
Contact a doctor if you experience any of the following:
**If you experience an erection lasting longer than 4 hours, contact emergency services. This could cause serious and permanent damage.
You may want to ask your doctor the following questions:
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