Erectile dysfunction is a common condition which prevents men from being able to develop and keep an erection for long enough to have sexual intercourse; it is most common amongst older men but can affect men of all ages. It is estimated that half of men aged between 40 and 70 will experience erectile dysfunction at least once in their lifetimes.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
There may be a number of different causes of erectile dysfunctions; both physical and mental health problems can contribute to erectile dysfunction. Examples of possible causes of erectile dysfunction include:
Physical causes: there are many different physical causes of erectile dysfunction; they are classified into four main categories, including:
- Vasculogenic causes: these affect the blood flow to the penis. Examples of these conditions include heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes
- Neurogenic causes: these conditions affect the nervous system. Examples of these conditions include Parkinson’s disease, tumours and multiple sclerosis
- Hormonal causes: these affect the levels of certain hormones in the body. Examples of these conditions include over-active thyroid gland, under-active thyroid gland and hypogonadism, which is a condition that affects testosterone production
- Anatomical causes: these conditions are caused by problems with the actual structure of the penis. Examples of these conditions include hypospadias (this prevents the urethra from developing normally) and Peyronie’s disease (this affects the actual tissue in the penis)
Certain medicines may also cause erectile dysfunction; these include antidepressants, diuretics and steroids.
Mental causes: possible mental causes of erectile dysfunction include:
- Relationship problems
- Lack of self-esteem
Other causes: there may be other factors that can cause erectile dysfunction; other possible contributors include:
- Excessive drinking
- Drug abuse
Should I see a doctor?
You should think about seeing a doctor if you suffer from persistent erectile dysfunction; most isolated cases do not require treatment and most patients find they return to normal very quickly. It is important to see your doctor if you are worried about your situation; do not try buying medication over the internet as they may not be approved in this country and you may not be getting what you think you are.
What treatments are available?
When you first go and see your doctor regarding erectile dysfunction they may carry out tests and a physical examination to try and identify possible causes of the condition; once an underlying cause is diagnosed this will be treated as a priority. In most cases, treating the cause of the problem will ease the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and most people will find they can achieve an erection once again. A doctor may recommend changing your lifestyle by suggesting you exercise more, eat healthily and cut down on drinking and smoking; this may improve your condition. If self-help treatments don’t work, doctors may prescribe medication known as PDE-5 inhibitors; these medications increase blood flow to the penis; the most well-known type of PDE-5 is Viagra. PDE-5 inhibitors are not suitable for everyone so doctors may also prescribe other types of medication.
Sometimes, other treatments are also recommended; if the problems stem from mental health issues or relationship problems, a doctor may advise the patient to undertake a course of counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy. Surgery may be recommended if erectile dysfunction is caused by anatomical factors.