Any urology-related issues can be uncomfortable to talk about, even with a physician or doctor. It generally goes for both women and men. However, if there is one problem men are reluctant to talk about, it’s probably erectile dysfunction and other related issues.
That’s understandable, considering the perceived direct connection between the problem and the lack of masculinity. However, erectile dysfunction problems can affect any man, regardless of age or general potency. Fortunately, there are many types of treatments out there, but as with any medication, patients should be well informed about their condition and the drug itself before using it. Here’s everything you need to know about erectile dysfunction and its treatment:
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
While erectile dysfunction defines as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual activity, that definition could cover many instances which aren’t ED. At some point in their lives, many if not all men experience erectile problems due to various factors. Tiredness and high stress can affect or prevent normal erectile functions temporarily, which is often nothing to worry about. Once these conditions are treated, and their cause is neutralized, erectile problems also go away.
Therefore, the official diagnosis of erectile dysfunction is when the inability to achieve or maintain an erection becomes a frequent, recurring issue. Anything other than that does not mean that the patient is developing ED.
Statistics of Erectile Dysfunction
It’s almost impossible to determine how common of an issue erectile dysfunction indeed is. It is due to various reasons, but mostly because it’s likely that many men never report their issue or even seek help from their doctors. The stigma of erectile dysfunction forces them to seek treatment on their own instead, throwing off the statistics.
However, what we can determine for sure is that more than 30 million Americans are affected by ED. It makes the issue quite common among the male population. Approximately 40% of men report having recurring symptoms of erectile dysfunction by the time they’re 40. This number grows to 70% in men younger than 70. The older population doesn’t only face erectile dysfunction issues. Up to one-quarter of men who seek treatment for ED are considered young at under 40, and 5% of them have extreme cases of erectile dysfunction.
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
While it often seems that the symptoms of erectile dysfunction occur without any apparent reason or purpose, there’s usually a source of these issues which might not be evident right away. Most of the time, it has something to do with environmental or physical factors that affect male reproductive health.
On a mechanical level, erectile dysfunction happens when there is no blood flow into the corpora cavernosa, which are the two chambers within the male penis that cause an erection by filling up with blood. It is why some medical conditions affecting blood flow can manifest symptoms similar to erectile dysfunction.
However, there are many more possible underlying causes of ED. Starting from more benign reasons such as poor diet, advanced age and hormonal changes, ED could also be caused by heart disease, diabetes, alcohol and tobacco use, high blood pressure, obesity, prescription medication or clogged blood vessels.
Another factor that plays a role is psychological — ED could be a symptom of depression. Any mental condition that naturally causes a drop in libido and difficulty in achieving arousal can manifest as erectile dysfunction. Anxiety can significantly affect a man’s ability to obtain and maintain an erection, as well as other stress disorders. These trigger strong emotional responses that can interfere with regular sexual activity.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatments
It’s essential for patients suffering from ED to provide accurate information to their doctors so they could receive proper treatment. Remedies for erectile dysfunction vary with its type. For example, there is a difference between experiencing problems with erections that are not firm enough for intercourse, and erections that don’t last long enough or even a complete lack of erections. Additionally, if ED symptoms progress and get worse over time, that could indicate a more serious underlying physical condition that should be diagnosed and treated first.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Different ED Treatments
Any medical treatment comes with its pros and cons, and erectile dysfunction remedies are no different. More often than not, there is a cookie-cutter approach to ED treatment, even though prescribing the same medication to every patient with ED might not be giving the best results. With erectile dysfunction which can be caused by a plethora of different medical conditions, treating every patient the same way can be counterproductive and lead to unwanted side-effects.
Oral erectile dysfunction medications have a few drawbacks. Namely, they often require daily dosing, usually aren’t effective immediately, and it’s also hard to adjust the dose if it’s too strong for the patient’s individual needs. These medications include sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Adcirca, Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn), and avanafil (Stendra). However, they’re dangerous to use if the patient is taking nitrate drugs, has heart disease or very low blood pressure.
On the other hand, there is the option of injections of compounded medications, which have an immediate effect and allow for easier modifying of the medicines. Patients can opt for a tri-mix of injectable ED medications (papaverine, phentolamine, and alprostadil,) or reduce it to a bi-mix depending on which one they respond to better. However, the drawback here is that injectable ED therapy can be scary, despite not involving a high level of discomfort. For those patients that don’t respond well to oral ED treatment, injectables might be necessary.
Other treatments can include penis pumps, penile implants, or more straightforward remedies such as regular exercise, improvements in diet, quitting smoking and alcohol, psychological counseling or alternative medicine.
Based on the patient’s symptoms and medical history, the doctor can prescribe a treatment suited to the patient’s unique needs. What’s important to understand is that ED treatment should not be administered without consulting a doctor, as it may have dangerous side-effects. As with any other medication, caution is advised.
Author: Kirill Vesselov
Kirill Vesslov is our resident writer about health and wellness as well as our pharmacy services.