Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the most common sexual problem that men report to their doctor and affects around 30 million men in the united states. ED, also known as impotence, is the condition in which men are unable to get or keep an erection that is firm enough for sexual intercourse. Having a problem with ED from time to time is not cause for concern, however, if it becomes an ongoing issue it is not normal and should be treated. ED can be a sign of a more serious condition, so it is important to speak with your doctor if you have any signs of ED.
Sexual arousal in men is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. Because of these complexities, ED can be caused by problems in any of these areas. ED can be caused by physical and psychological issues or a combination of both.
Physical Causes of ED
Some medical conditions can cause ED by reducing blood flow into the penis or when the penis can not trap blood during an erection. The most common physical causes of ED include:
Emotional Causes of ED
The brain plays a vital role in causing the physical events that lead to an erection. There are many psychological and emotional factors that can interfere with sexual desires causing or worsening ED, these could include:
ED is often a symptom of an underlying health problem, symptoms could include:
A doctor is able to diagnose ED after reviewing your medical and sexual history, a mental health exam, and sometimes a physical exam is necessary. Some men may find it hard to talk with your doctor about ED, but keep in mind that your doctor is trained to talk about and treat these issues, and the more your doctor knows about you and your health history the better he/she can treat your condition. Your doctor may also need to order lab or imaging tests to look for underlying health conditions that could be causing your ED.
Common questions your doctor may ask include:
This information will help your doctor better understand your ED and can help your doctor diagnose problems with sexual desire, erection, climax, or ejaculation. Some of these questions also address any psychological or emotional issues that may be causing your ED.
Some men affected with ED may require specialized testing that could include:
There are a variety of treatment options for ED, the treatment that is right for you will depend on the cause and severity of your ED as well as any underlying health conditions you may have. It is important to work with a health care professional to choose the ED treatment that is best for you, it may be helpful to talk with your partner about which treatment is best for you as a couple as well. ED treatment options could include lifestyle changes, medications, testosterone therapy, injections, erection devices, implants, or surgery.
Your doctor may recommend any of the following lifestyle changes to help improve your ED, if you have trouble making these changes on your own seek help from your doctor.
There are 4 oral medications that are approved by the FDA for the treatment of ED, these medications are known as PDE type-5 inhibitors and work to increase penile blood flow. These medications are taken by mouth and will help you to get and maintain an erection.
These medications all work by relaxing muscles in the penis and increasing blood flow in the penis during sexual stimulation allowing you to get an erection. Taking this medication will not automatically produce an erection, sexual stimulation is required first to work. These medications come in varying dosages so it may take time to find the right medication and dose that is right for you. These medications do come with possible side effects, including:
You SHOULD NOT take any of these medications if you are taking nitrates for your heart, have heart disease or heart failure, or have very low blood pressure.
If the cause of your ED is related to low blood levels of testosterone and you are experiencing low sex drive, testosterone therapy may help fix normal erections. Testosterone therapy may also work well combined with PDE type 5 inhibitors. Possible side effects of testosterone treatment could include a high red blood cell count and problems urinating.
Penile Injection and Suppository Medicines
If oral medications do not work to treat your ED, the drug Alprostadil is an approved injectable or suppository drug to treat ED.
Alprostadil, when injected into the penis, works to cause it to become filled with blood causing an erection. It may be beneficial to have your first injection done at the doctor’s office before doing this on your own. Self-injection lessons will be given at your doctor’s office so you can learn to do this from the comfort of your own home. Each injections is dosed to create an erection to last no longer than an hour. Side effects could include mild bleeding from the injection, prolonged erection, and very rarely the formation of fibrous tissue at the injection site.
Alprostadil also comes in the form of a suppository and this treatment is called Alprostadil intraurethral therapy. This method involves placing a small alprostadil suppository inside your penile urethra. To insert, you use a special applicator. The erection typically starters within 10 minutes of insertion and may last 30 minutes to an hour. Side effects of this method could include a burning feeling in the penis, minor bleeding in the urethra, and formation of fibrous tissue inside your penis.
Vacuum Erection Device/Penis Pump
If medications do not successfully treat your ED your doctor may recommend a vacuum erection device. This device is made of a plastic tube that slides over the penis and makes a seal with the skin of the body. There is a pump at the other end of the tube creating a low-pressure vacuum around the penis. The pump sucks out the air inside the tube creating a vacuum that pulls blood into your penis and causes an erection. Once an erection is attained, an elastic ring is then slipped onto the base of the penis to hold the blood in the penis to maintain the erection. The erection typically lasts for up to 30 minutes, and the ring should be removed after sexual intercourse. Possible side effects of this device are bruising and restricted ejaculation.
If your ED is severe and other treatment methods have failed, your doctor may recommend surgery. This treatment involves surgically placing devices into both sides of the penis. These implants are either inflatable or bendable rods. The semi-rigid/bendable implants are made from two easy to bend rods made of silicone to give the penis firmness required for sexual penetration. For the inflatable implant, two fluid-filled cylinders are placed in the penis and tubing joins these cylinders to a pump placed inside the scrotum. When the pump is engaged the cylinders inflate making the penis stiff creating an erection. As these implants do require surgery, there are risks of complications like infection.
If your ED is caused by psychological or emotional issues your doctor may recommend you see a counselor or therapist. A counselor can help teach you coping strategies for anxiety and stress. Your counselor may also recommend that you bring your partner along to a session so your partner is better able to support you.
Whether the cause of your ED is physical, psychological, or a combination of both, erectile dysfunction can be the cause of mental and emotional stress for you and/or your partner. It is important to seek help from a health care professional before your ED starts to drastically affect your life, health, and relationship. With the use of telemedicine technology, you can receive convenient, discreet and affordable ED treatment all from the comfort of your own home. There are many digital companies where you can complete an online doctors consult and they can even ship your treatment in discreet packaging directly to your home, saving you a trip to your pharmacy. Check out our top list of digital clinics to start receiving treatment for your ED today.