by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Erectile dysfunction known as ED or impotence is the inability of a man to achieve or maintain an erection. ED is a very common condition that many consider to be as much a medical condition as a sexual one. Some estimate that at least half of all men between the 40-70 years of age have or will have ED to some degree. As many men will not discuss ed with their Dr because they feel too embarrassed it’s difficult to get accurate figures, however despite that most experts believe there are at least 30 million men in the US with ED.
Despite the usual jokes about how easily men are aroused its a complex process. This process involves not just hormones but the brain, nerves, muscles and blood vessels as well as emotion. If there is a problem in any of these areas ED can be the result. Stress and mental health issues can not only cause Ed but make it worse as well. In some cases ED is made worse by what I call the snowball effect. For example, you have a minor physical problem that slows your sexual response, because of this you worry about whether or not you can maintain an erection and the increased anxiety makes it worse. Though ED tends to occur as you get older itis not the result of aging. It is the result of or a side effect of other underlying health issues like diabetes and heart disease,or certain medications that are common as you age. Diabetes and heart disease are the most common factors associated with ED but there are others including smoking, because it reduces the blood flow through the veins and arteries, being overweight, especially if you’re obese also has a significant effect on ED. There are also several medical treatment that can cause ED including prostate surgery, and treatments for cancer like radiation and chemotherapy. There are numerous medications used to treat other conditions like hypertension, pain or prostate cancer as well as some antidepressants and antihistamines that have the side effect of ED. Drug and alcohol use especially if your a heavy drinker or a long term drug user you’re likely to have some degree of ED.
Frequently ED is an early symptom that there is a problem with your blood vessels, they’re getting narrower. This can occur for a variety of reasons but more importantly it can lead to more serious health issues like coronary artery disease, heart attack or stroke.
The symptoms of ED include persistent difficulty achieving and/or maintaining an erection and lack of sexual desire. If you are some degree of ED it’s important to determine the underlying cause before more serious complications develop. Also if you are already taking medications for another condition and are experiencing ED as one of the side effects do not stop taking the medication, talk to your Dr about the possibility of changing them. There have been numerous advances in pharmaceuticals so there are more options than in the past.
Once your Dr is sure your receiving proper treatment for any underlying conditions and is sure that any underlying health issues are under control there are numerous options that you can discuss and choose the best option for you. Your Dr will be able to explain all the risks and benefits of each to you and though the Dr will consider your preference in the end the one that will cause the least complications depending on your particular situation will be the one recommended. For example someone with diabetes may not be able to tolerate the same treatment as someone with hypertension and this is the Dr’s first consideration.
Prevention is always better than treatment especially since many men refuse to seek treatment for ED. The best way to prevent ED is to start by making healthy choices and monitor and control any pre-existing health conditions that can cause ED. Quit smoking and reduce your alcohol consumption. Exercising regularly improves your circulation and lowers stress as well as helps you maintain a healthy weight. Since the “little blue pill” has come along many men opt for the pill instead of making lifestyle changes, but that “little blue pill” isn’t going to do you any good if you have a heart attack or stroke.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.