Education & Diagnosis
Erectile dysfunction, sometimes referred to as "impotence", is the repeated inability to attain or sustain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. The severity of the dysfunction varies from one man to another and often causes anxiety, stress, embarrassment and a decrease in sexual desire. It is estimated that erectile dysfunction affects over 30 million men in the United States. Unfortunately, for some, erectile dysfunction is an issue that is a part of the natural aging process, but there are a few medical factors that can cause it to become more severe, or cause an earlier onset. The most common cause of erectile dysfunction is a cardiovascular problem. The blood vessels in the penis are among the smallest in the body and are often the first to exhibit symptoms of high blood pressure (hypertension) or arthersclerosis (hardening of the arteries), or diabetes. Other causes of erectile dysfunction include surgery, such as prostate cancer surgery, that affects the nerves or blood vessels that play a role in getting erections. Side effects from medications such as antidepressants or antihistamines, emotional or mental stress, and lifestyle choices including smoking and alcohol and drug abuse can also cause ED.
Testing & Treatment
In most cases, diagnosing erectile dysfunction can be done by physical examination and by answering questions related to your medical history. If you have chronic health conditions or your doctor suspects that an underlying condition might be involved, further diagnostic testing might include:
Blood tests. A sample of your blood might be sent to a lab to check for signs of heart disease, diabetes, low testosterone levels and other health conditions.
Urine tests (urinalysis). Like blood tests, urine tests are used to look for signs of underlying health conditions.
The good news, is that there is erectile dysfunction treatments available and erectile dysfunction has been proven treatable at any age. Erectile dysfunction treatment usually proceeds from least to most invasive.
- Medication Adjustments: Adjusting a medicine that is triggering ED may be all you need to do.
- Behavioral Changes: Quitting smoking, exercising, or losing weight can improve ED.
- Medications: Medications such as Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis, which are taken orally and may help receive an erection.
- Penile injections and Suppositories: Medication may be injected into your penis to relax the muscles and blood vessels in your penis to allow blood to flow in to create an erection.
- Penile Prosthesis: When other treatments have not worked, the surgical placement of a penile implant or penile prosthesis can allow men to be sexually intimate. Sensation and orgasm do not change with the placement of a penile implant.