Understanding Erectile Dysfunction
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common male sexual dysfunction. When a person regularly faces difficulty in getting or maintaining a firm enough erection to have sexual intercourse, it is termed as erectile dysfunction. It is not uncommon to have erectile dysfunction occasionally, due to stress or emotional and relationship difficulties. However, frequent ED may indicate health problems which require treatment.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction can occur due to issues at any stage in the process of erection; physical, psychological or emotional. Physical causes that can compromise normal physiological needs for an erection, like blood flow, nervous supply and hormones can lead to ED. These can include damage to the nerves, arteries, smooth muscles, and fibrous tissues in the penis.
Disorders or medical conditions that can cause damage and lead to erectile dysfunction can include:
• High blood pressure
• Cardiovascular disease
• Injury from treatment of cancer or surgery
• Injuries to the penis, spinal cord, prostate, bladder, or pelvis
• Chronic kidney disease
Some of the psychological and lifestyle factors causing erectile dysfunction can include:
• Consumption of alcohol
• Relationship problems
• Fear of sexual failure
What are the symptoms and complications of erectile dysfunction?
The frequent inability to get or sustain an erection firm to indulge in sexual intercourse is the only symptom of erectile dysfunction.
Complications of ED may include:
• Emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem
• A strained relationship with the partner due to lack of intimacy
• An unhappy sex life
How is erectile dysfunction diagnosed?
Diagnosis of erectile dysfunction is done based on:
• Physical examination
• Medical and sexual history
• Blood tests
• Nocturnal (nighttime) erection test
• Injection test
• Doppler ultrasound
Before considering the diagnosis of ED that requires treatment, the doctor will look out for symptoms that have been persistent for at least three months.
How can erectile dysfunction be treated?
Erectile dysfunction is a treatable condition. The treatment depends on the underlying cause for the condition. The treatment options for ED ranges from professional counselling to lifestyle changes, along with medications and surgery. For ED, it is always advised to talk to the doctor. A doctor can help identify the causes and give the most suitable treatment option.
The available treatment option for ED includes:
• Medication – If ED is a persistent problem rather than a temporary one, then in most cases a group of medicines called PDE-5 (phosphodiesterase-5) is prescribed as a first option for the treatment. This medicine must be prescribed by the doctor
• Vacuum devices – In case one is uncomfortable or cannot use drug treatment, vacuum erection devices can be used to mechanically produce an erection
• Surgical treatment – For those who have not had any success with medication and other non-invasive options, surgery is seen as the last resort
Apart from the medical intervention mentioned above, ED can be treated with lifestyle changes. It is always advised to consult a healthcare professional to identify the cause and advise the most appropriate treatment for the condition.