Most men, at some point in their lives, will experience some
form of erectile dysfunction. According to the “Merck
Manual for Healthcare Professionals,” at least 10 to 20 million men in the United States suffer from
Experts believe that the number may actually be higher
because men sometimes may not be comfortable speaking to their doctors about sexual
What is impotence and
Impotence refers to a man’s inability to get or maintain an erection long
enough to have sexual intercourse. Occasionally having trouble getting or keeping
an erection is quite common. And it’s not generally a cause for concern.
If it happens more than just occasionally, then it needs to be addressed
with your doctor. Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of an underlying health
condition like diabetes or heart disease. Regardless of the cause of impotence,
left untreated it can take a toll on your relationships and your
Experiencing problems with erections once in a while is
something that happens to most men at some point. It is when the following
symptoms are persistent, or become a problem for you and your partner, they may
be cause for concern:
keeping a strong erection
Causes of erectile dysfunction
There are several factors that play a role in a man’s sexual
arousal, and can be both physical and emotional. The causes of erectile
dysfunction can be as simple as a side effect from a medication, stress, relationship
issues, or the result of an illness.
Some common physical causes include:
and tobacco use
Common psychological causes include:
issues stemming from resentment, anger, or lack of trust
There are many factors that can cause erectile dysfunction. In
addition to many physical or psychological causes, there are also other factors
that could put you at risk for developing an ongoing problem of getting or
maintaining an erection, or getting aroused.
The most common factor is aging. As men get older, it
becomes more difficult for them to get an erection. In some cases, a little bit
of extra touching and stimulation may help, while others may require treatment.
And a rarely discussed risk factor is prolonged cycling,
which affects the flow of blood to the penis and can compress nerves, leading
to temporary erectile dysfunction.
The first step in treating erectile dysfunction is an
examination by a doctor. They’ll want to know your symptoms and about any
stressors in your life. Your doctor will want to know when your symptoms
started, and whether you have spontaneous nighttime erections. Your doctor may
also speak with your partner.
A complete physical examination, including blood and urine
tests and possibly an ultrasound, will also be used to determine what could be
causing the issue. It’s not easy to talk to someone about your sexual health or
your relationship, but the more candid you are about what’s going on, the
easier it will be for your doctor to help you.
Your treatment will depend on what is found during your
examination. If a medical condition like high blood pressure or heart disease
is deemed to be the cause, then treating those conditions is likely to improve your
If the cause is psychological, then counseling may be part
of your treatment. This may include couples counseling if problems in your
relationship are an issue.
There are several treatment options available for erectile
dysfunction that can help you to achieve and maintain an erection, including:
- vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
of alprostadil (Caverject Impulse, Edex)
intraurethral penis suppositories (Muse)
Testosterone may also be used to treat low testosterone levels.
Antianxiety and antidepressants could also be prescribed to treat psychological
issues. And high blood pressure medication, blood thinners, or insulin can
treat underlying medical conditions.
Surgical options are also available in rare cases. Blood vessel
surgery will repair damaged or blocked blood vessels that may be causing
impotence or erectile dysfunction. Or penile implant surgery may help if all
other treatment options have been exhausted.
Lifestyle changes to improve
There are lifestyle changes that you can make to help
improve erectile dysfunction. Losing weight if you are overweight will greatly
improve your overall health. A healthier diet and regular exercise will help
you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, which can impact your sexual
health. It also improves circulation and can help keep heart problems and
diabetes under control.
Smoking and alcohol or drug use can all be contributing
factors in erectile dysfunction, and also wreak havoc on your physical and
mental health. If these substances are used in excess, you might consider
cutting back on your consumption, or seeking help for treatment of an
There are also relaxation techniques that help people deal
with stress and anxiety. These include:
- deep breathing
Exercise also has a relaxing effect, as does engaging in
activities that you enjoy, such as walking, painting, or anything else that
brings you pleasure and allows you to decompress.