Symptoms, Causes & Treatments Men must Know
There may be times when you cannot get and sustain an erection during sexual activities with your partner. Once, or maybe twice, is not uncommon. However, when it frequently occurs for over three months, you may have impotence, or commonly known as erectile dysfunction (ED). This is defined as the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. Let’s explore the symptoms, causes & treatments or erectile dysfunction.
Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms
Erectile dysfunction happens when there is a persistent difficulty in getting an erection and difficulty sustaining one during sex. A reduced sexual desire is also a symptom of ED. Other sexual disorders concerning ED are premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, and anorgasmia (the inability to reach an orgasm despite sufficient stimulation). All these instances can be bothersome during sexual activities.
Symptoms of ED arise sporadically or suddenly. For others, their erection gradually loses firmness and the amount of time it lasts can decrease. In some men whose ED is heavily caused by psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, or depression, the symptoms may appear abruptly, but with the proper treatment and support, they can recover.
It is best to consult with your doctor when these persist for three months or more, when you experience other abnormal symptoms or health conditions that may be linked with erectile dysfunction, or when you are heavily concerned that it starts to affect your sexual relationship with your partner. Your doctor would be able to definitively diagnose your condition and give the necessary treatment.
Erectile Dysfunction Causes
There are various causes of ED, and these range from physiological and psychological causes. One physiological cause is the presence of systemic conditions such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Long-term uncontrolled high blood sugar levels may cause damage to your nerves (neuropathy) and blood vessels.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) is another systemic condition that can cause ED. This can cause damage to the blood vessel lining and cause atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of arteries). This can further restrict blood flow, lessening the blood flow to your penis during an erection.
Being overweight or obese can also cause ED. It was found that being above the normal weight increases the risk for ED by about 30% to 90%. Moreover, a higher degree of obesity is related to having a decreased level of testosterone. An additional of 4 inches in waist size increases for about 75% the chances of having low testosterone levels.
ED may also be caused by smoking, alcohol use, and/or substance abuse. The chemicals from the cigarettes have negative effects on the blood vessels of your penis, affecting your erection. Smoking can impair your blood vessels and cause poor blood supply. Additionally, alcohol can lower your hormone levels, including testosterone. The cells in your gonads and testes are also affected by alcohol, such that a minor injury may inhibit an erection.
Recreational substances contribute to ED. Amphetamines and cocaine cause narrowing of blood vessels, thus, lessening the blood supply to your penis. Barbiturates and nicotine decrease your libido. Similarly, heroin decreases your testosterone levels and sexual desire.
Some prescription medications have side effects that can affect your erection:
- Antidepressants, such as dopamine, serotonin, and prolactin, modify the various chemicals in your brain
- Chemotherapy drugs, like cisplatin and vincristine, trigger peripheral neuropathy, damaging your nerves outside the brain and spinal cord and consequently affecting the nerves that make you erect.
- Drugs for hypertension may block blood from going to your penis for an erection. Examples of these drugs include beta-blockers and diuretics.
- Drugs that block or decrease testosterone, like corticosteroids, antiandrogens, and some antihistamines, may lessen one’s sexual desire.
A congenital defect of lacking the bulbocavernosus reflex may also be a cause. During electrical stimulation, a prolonged or absent reflex latency response may indicate a neurological disease causing ED. Complications after prostatectomy (prostate surgery) or radiation for prostate cancer treatment (about 25% to 50%) also cause ED. However, it was found that after a year of prostatectomy, about 40% to 50% of men will have their normal erection back.
Psychological causes of ED account for 10% to 20% of cases. The following are known causes of ED:
- Depression is a common cause. A comfortable male during sex can still have erection problems triggered by depression, and some antidepressant medications cause ED.
- Stress from one’s job, school, financial, and/or relationship problems can affect his erection.
- Severe anxiety and low self-esteem may both arise when there are past instances of ED. This can result in the fear of sexual failure, leading to ED.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatment
Erectile dysfunction treatments should be done only after a careful examination and proper diagnosis by your doctor. The most basic way is to change your lifestyle. Your doctor may suggest that you stop smoking, limit or stop consuming alcoholic beverages, prevent the use of illegal or recreational drugs, and exercise more often.
If you are affected by emotional and psychological factors, you can go to counseling. A sex therapist may help you to lower your anxiety and stress that is sex-related. It may be suggested to bring your partner if you are having issues, such that having your partner involved in counseling solves the problem 50% to 70% of the time.
A change in your medications that causes ED may also be advised. Additionally, medicines that will help you have and sustain an erection may be prescribed. This includes sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra), and avanafil (Stendra). These work by relaxing the smooth muscles of your penis, causing an increased blood flow for an erection. However, you should not take these in combination with nitrate drugs because your blood pressure may immediately drop. Consult with your doctor first before taking these medications.
There are more invasive treatments, such as injectable medicines like Alprostadil, which causes your penis to be filled with blood. A vacuum device makes you erect by pulling blood to your penis. Surgery is an option, but it is the last choice in treatment. A device may be implanted to make you erect or your arteries may be reconstructed to increase blood flow.
If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, there is no need to panic because luckily, there are several ways to treat erectile dysfunction. The first step towards erectile dysfunction treatments should be to consult a doctor and find out what your options are. Ultimately, seeking medical help will prove to be the right move and it could make all the difference in the bedroom.
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