Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when you can't get and maintain a satisfying erection for sex. ED affects more than 30 million men in the United States. It is a topic that several men still find hard to talk about.
If you are experiencing erectile issues, it is important to speak with your physician. There could be a health condition contributing to your erectile dysfunction. A men's health specialist will play an active role in your health and treatment plan for ED.
Common Causes of ED
There are five common causes of ED, which include:
- Vascular disease
Many men are uncomfortable speaking with their physician about erectile dysfunction symptoms. However, it is important to treat your symptoms as ED can be a warning sign of current or future heart disease.
ED often happens before coronary artery disease in almost 70 percent of cases. The arteries in the penis are small compared to those in other parts of the body. If there is underlying coronary artery disease, these smaller arteries in the penis are affected by atherosclerosis (blocked blood vessels) sooner.
Sometimes, patients will be refered to a cardiologist in order to determine if there is underlying cardiovascular disease.
You can reduce your risk of ED by improving your heart health. This includes exercising, quitting tobacco, losing weight, and eating a healthy diet.
- Endocrine disorders
Diabetes is the second most common cause of erectile dysfunction. Half of men with diabetes will experience ED within ten years of their diagnosis.
High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves that control sexual stimulation. They can also damage blood vessels that provide blood flow to the penis to achieve and maintain an erection.
While medications are a common first therapy, they tend to only work in about 50 percent of men with diabetes. Good blood sugar control can help slow the progression of ED and sexual dysfunction in men. Men with diabetes are more likely to move on to other treatment options, such as the vacuum erection pump, penile injection therapy, and penile implants.
Some men notice issues maintaining an erection after starting a new medication. Common medications that can contribute to erectile issues are:
- Blood pressure medications
- Testosterone blockers
Your doctor may switch you to another medication to see if that resolves the issue.
- Pelvic surgery
Pelvic surgeries are a common cause of sexual dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction is a potential complication following prostate cancer surgery.
The nerves that control an erection lie very close to the prostate. These nerves may be injured during treatment. If the surgeon uses nerve-sparing procedures, some men may regain their previous level of erectile function. This typically takes a year or two.
Unfortunately, some men may not recover their ability to have a natural erection.
- Neurological disorders
In order to achieve and maintain an erection, your nerves must be working properly. Neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's, can cause erectile dysfunction. Nerve damage from spinal cord injuries and stroke can also cause ED.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatment
It is important to keep in mind that even if you are dealing with ED, there are treatment options available to help you return to a satisfying sex life.