It refers to the inability of a male to sustain erection consistently and repeatedly. It is a common problem and is reported that it affects around 18-30 million men. It exerts considerable effects on the quality of life. Most of the time people are reluctant to talk about it to others even to doctors. This is why it is important to address this problem openly.
What are the mechanics of erectile dysfunction?
The penis contains two cylinder-shaped chambers called corpora cavernosa which runs along the length of the penis. They contain arteries which bring the blood to the penis and veins which take the blood away from the penis. When there is sexual stimulation either physically or mentally our brain sends a message to the nerves in the penis to cause the relaxation of the penile arteries. This increases the blood flow to the penis making it stiff and hard, thus achieving erection.There is simultaneous contraction of specialized muscles located in the penis which compresses the veins and reduces the outflow of blood from the penis thereby helping to sustain erection.
This is clear now that anything that interferes with the either nerve impulses anywhere from the brain down to the penis or anything that limits the blood flow to the penis can result in erectile dysfunction.
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
Most of the people consider it as a psychological problem. However it is not the case. Although psychological factors are involved in the causation of ED but mostly we do have any underlying physical cause of ED.
Physical Conditions Leading To ED
1. Vascular diseases
We understand that it is the increased blood flow to the penis that helps us achieve erection. Thus any vascular diseases which impair the blood flow to the penis will make it difficult to get erection. They include atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and increased levels of cholesterols.
Males suffering from diabetes mellitus usually experience erectile dysfunction at some point of life particularly when they don’t have an optimum sugar control. The erectile dysfunction associated with diabetes is attributed to damage to blood vessels as well as nerves.
3. Neurologic Disorder
For adequate erection we require proper functioning of our nerves as well as brain. This is why any disorder that interferes with the functions of brain or nerves can cause erectile dysfunction. They include conditions such as Stroke Multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
There are some lifestyle choices which can increase the risk of erectile dysfunction. They include smoking, drinking and drug abuse. The do so by interfering with the blood supply of the penis.
Trauma to the blood vessels and nerve supplying the penis can also cause erectile dysfunction. The importance of trauma as a cause of erectile dysfunction has been implicated in people who have been riding bicycle for longer period of times. This is because bicycle seat can put constant pressure on the vessels and nerves supplying the penis thereby damaging them and resulting in erectile dysfunction.
There are certain drugs that can cause erectile dysfunction. They include medications used to lower blood pressure and also some antidepressant. The irony is depression and high blood pressure are some of the causes of erectile dysfunction and the drugs you are using to treat these conditions also cause erectile dysfunction. This is why it is important for you to talk to you doctor if you are on any medications and you start having problems with the erection.
Mostly older people above the age of 50 have problems with erection. This is the age when people also present with enlargement of the prostate and even with prostate cancer. They require surgeries for these conditions and during surgery the nerves supplying the penis might be damaged resulting in erectile dysfunction.
Psychiatric Conditions Leading To ED
The brain is involved in achieving erection as well as pleasure and excitement associated with sex so any problem that interferes with functioning of brain can cause ED. Psychiatric conditions are responsible for only about 10-15%of the cases of ED. They include
• Low-self esteem
How to Treat Erectile Dysfunction?
1. Lifestyle changes
There are certain life style changes which can help in the improvement of sexual function. They include cessation of smoking, exercise and weight loss.
There is this famous drug called sildenafil which is well known as Viagra. It is not the only drug, rather there is a whole class of drugs called phosphodiestrase inhibitors. The other important medications included in this group are Vardenafil ( Levita, Stxyn), Tadalafil (Cialis) and Avanafil (Stendra)
3. Vacuum Pumps
They are specialized devices containing a cylinder and a pump. The penis is placed in the cylinder and pump is used to draw the air out of the pump creating a cylinder. This increases the blood flow to the penis. In order to maintain the erection an elastic band is worn around the base of penis.
If the erectile dysfunction is due to blockage of the artery supplying the penis especially in younger patients we can surgically restore that blood flow. The other things we can do surgically is place an implant in there. This implant is filled with the pressurized fluid whenever erection is required.
Erectile dysfunction is a complex problem to deal with. Therefore it is important for you to realize that you have to involve your partner and talk to a doctor if you want to get out of this troublesome situation. The other important issue to keep in mind is to avoid any self-medication at all as it might have lethal outcome.