What is Erectile Dysfunction: Symptoms Causes & Treatment

Erectile dysfunction is known as impotence. It is the most common sex problem of men that report to their doctors. Lots of people have been victims of this disease. It has affected around about 30 million people around the world.

What is erectile dysfunction ED?

Erectile dysfunction is defined as “It is the inability to develop or maintain a firm erection of the penis during sexual activity or intercourse”.

Occasionally men experience erectile Dysfunction during stress but it is very uncommon. This uncommon erectile dysfunction needs no treatment. It can be sorted out by solving the cause of stress.

If a man faces frequent ED then it can be a sign of health problems that will need treatment. Emotional and relationship difficulties can cause frequent ED.

ED is treatable and no need to worry about it. When you are facing ED consult a physician and follow up on his/her instructions. He will find out the exact cause of ED.

How Erections work

During sexual intercourse or sexual activity, nerves release chemicals that increase the rush of blood flow into the penis. Penis has two erection chambers made of spongy muscle tissue (corpus cavernosum).

These spongy muscles relax and trap the blood during an erection. The blood pressure in the corpus cavernosum makes the penis firm and causes an erection.

Anything that restricts nerve impulses or blood to the penis can cause erectile dysfunction.

When a man has an orgasm, nerves send a signal to muscular tissues in the penis to contract and blood is released back to the circulatory system and the erection ends.

The penis is soft and limp when you are not sexually motivated. You might notice that the size of the penis varies with cold, warmth, and worry; it is a normal phenomenon and the size of the penis depends on the blood flow coming into and leaving the penis.

Erectile dysfunction symptoms

The persistent symptoms of erectile dysfunction include:

  • Trouble getting an erection
  • Trouble in keeping an erection, the penis will be not rigid as required for sex
  • Reduced sexual desire or loss of libido

These are the common and prevalent symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

When to consult a doctor

When you are facing erectile dysfunction then consult your family doctor and discuss your issue with him. Consult your doctor if:

  •   You are experiencing erection problems or other sexual problems like premature or delayed ejaculation.
  • You have chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, or other health complications that might be linked to ED.

common causes for erectile dysfunction

Sexual arousal in men is a complex process that includes the brain, nerves, emotions, hormones, blood vessels, and muscles. Any abnormality with any of these can cause ED. Stress and mental health problems can cause or worsen ED.

Physical and psychological issues are the leading factors in ED. For example, minor anxiety can suppress sexual arousal and delay the process of erection. Anxiety for a long time can cause ED or worsen the ED.

There are many other factors that affect the nervous system, vascular system, and endocrine system that can cause ED.

Commonly ED develops with aging, but it can be treated at any stage of life.

  1. Chronic diseases

The following diseases can cause ED.

  • Heat diseases
  • Blood vessel diseases
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Kidney diseases
  • Peyronie’s disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • Injury to the penis, prostate bladder, pelvis, or spinal cord
  • Surgery for bladder cancer
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • High cholesterol

Diabetic patients are more prone to develop ED than men who do not have diabetes.

Any one of these can cause ED. Therefore it is worth to see your family doctor to find out the exact cause of ED. It is treatable when the cause is known.

  • Physical causes of ED

ED happens when:

  • There is a restriction of blood flow into the penis:

Lots of medical complications can reduce the flow of blood into the penis, such as heart diseases, high blood sugar, smoking, and hardened arteries.

  • Blacked of a nerve signal from the brain or spinal cord to the penis:

Injury or surgery, certain diseases can harm nerves in the pelvic areas that lead to blacked nerve impulses to the penis.

  • Penis can’t trap blood during sexual intercourse:

Here the spongy muscle of the penis can trap the blood. If blood is not accumulated in the penis then man can’t keep a firm erection.  This problem may happen at any stage of life.

  • Diabetes type 2

Type 2 diabetes damages the nerves and causes ED.

  • Cancer treatment:

Cancer treatment in the lower abdomen or pelvic region can cause ED. During this therapy, damage happens to nerves. If survivors of cancer face sexual health concerns then they should immediately consult a physician.

  • Use of drugs:

Certain medications can cause ED. It is necessary to know the side effects of the medication before use.

  • Psychological or emotional causes of ED

Psychological or emotional factors may cause or worsen the ED. You can develop ED if you have any one of the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fear of sexual failure
  • Worry about sex performance or sexual activities
  • Stress about sexual performance or stress in your common life
  • Low self-esteem
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Stress from cultural or religious hindrances
  • Behaviors and health-related factors

The following health-related factors and behaviors can cause ED;

  • Excessive drinking of alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Illicit use of drugs
  • Obesity
  • Passive lifestyle
  • Use of certain medicines

Certain medicines have side effects to cause ED. The most common classes of medicines that can cause ED to include:

  • Antihypertensive drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Tranquilizers
  • Antiandrogens
  • Ulcer medicines
  • Appetite suppressants

ED Risk factors

The following are the risk factors that contribute to erectile dysfunction. As age goes on the intensity of erection fall and you will not get a firm erection as required for satisfactory intercourse. The most common risk factors include:

  • Tobacco use: the use of tobacco restricts blood flow to the veins and arteries. With the passage of time, it leads to ED.
  • Medical conditions: certain medical complications such as heart disease and diabetes can cause ED.
  • Medical treatment: treatment of certain diseases that become a cause of ED, such as prostate surgery, radiation therapy for cancer, etc.
  • Overweight: obesity is also a leading factor in ED.
  • Injuries: damage to nerves, and arteries that control erection.
  • Psychological conditions: depression, anxiety, or stress are the most frequent factors for ED.
  • Alcohol and drug use: drinkers and drug users are more prone to ED.
  • Medication for diseases: use of certain medications becomes a risk factor for ED such as antihypertensive drugs, antidepressants antihistamines, etc.

Erectile dysfunction treatment

Treatment of ED depends on the cause of ED. ED therapy is comprised of medication and psychological counseling.

Medicine for erectile dysfunction

When you are facing ED, your doctor may prescribe a group of medicines called phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (PDE-5).

The response of PDE-5 is not the same in all patients but you may use different drugs first and then you will find the appropriate drug for yourself. With the passage of time, you will completely know which oral medication is more responsive to you.

PDE-5 medicines are vasodilators and they increase the flow of blood to the penis and treat ED.

The following are the oral PDE-5 drugs

  • Sildenafil (viagra)
  • Avanafil  (stendra)
  • Tadalafil (cialis)
  • Vardenafil (staxyn, Levitra)

Most of these medications are taken 30-60 minutes before intercourse.

PDE-5 are not over-the-counter drugs and they should be taken on a valid prescription. Before taking these drugs, a doctor will check your heart health and ask about other medications used before prescribing.

In some developing countries, these drugs are available over the counter and used extensively without any prescription, which is not good practice for people. The reason is that these drugs have some common side effects which people are facing regularly.

The common side effects associated with PDE-5 include:

  • Flushing
  • Hearing loss
  • Visual abnormalities
  • Headache
  • Indigestion

Another less commonly used drug is Alprostadil (prostaglandin E1) which can be used to treat ED.

Alprostadil is applied either locally by inserting it into the penis or by inserting it into the opening of the urethra. In short words, it is used as a penile suppository or self-injection at the base or side of the penis.

Testosterone is also prescribed to treat ED. Testosterone therapy is used when you will have a low level of testosterone.

As we have discussed before that these drugs have side effects. When you are facing severe side effects then consult a doctor and he/she will prescribe another appropriate drug.

Talk therapy or counseling

Lots of psychological factors can cause ED. The most common factors include:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

If your ED is due to psychological factors, then ED is the best option for you. You will recover from ED through a few sessions of talk therapy.

Your therapist and you will discuss:

  • Your sexual feeling
  • Major anxiety or stress factors
  • Social issues
  • Religious factors
  • Self-esteem etc

Vacuum pumps

Vacuum pumps are a good option for those who are reluctant to medicine or find that oral medications are not working.

These vacuum pumps pull blood to the penis and cause an erection. Vacuum pump

consist of a few components:

  • A Plastic tube, which is placed over the penis
  • A pump, which creates a vacuum by drawing air out of the plastic tube
  • An elastic ring is used to maintain an erection when you remove the plastic tube.

Elastic rings hold the blood in the penis and prevent it from returning to circulation. An elastic ring can be left in place for 30 minutes.

Prevention of erectile dysfunction

To prevent erectile dysfunction, start a healthy lifestyle. The following are a few suggestions through which erectile dysfunction can be prevented.

  • Regularly visit your family doctor for checkups and screening tests
  • Manage diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic health conditions according to your doctor.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol, stop smoking, and don’t use illegal drugs
  • Don’t take the stress
  • Take steps to reduce stress
  • Do regular exercise and be active
  • Treat your depression and anxiety on time

These are the few steps through which you can avoid ED from your life. There is no erectile dysfunction age. It can affect you at any stage of life but it is most prevalent in old age.

Generally, ED occurs when you are crossing the age of 50. But you can extend it when you follow the above steps. The reason is that erectile dysfunction meaning is easy for us and we come to know that psychological factors are more responsible for ED.


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