What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction(ED) is a sexual disease in which a male individual fails to maintain the firm erection of the penis for a satisfactory sexual intercourse. Formerly called impotence, it was considered to be a psychological effect and a natural outcome of growing older. But researches have revealed that it is more of a physical problem than a psychological effect.
Erection occurs to a co-ordination among various veins and nerve tissues. Usually, blood enters and are retained the sponge like bodies of the penis for erection. During intercourse, the process is initiated when the sexual affinity arises in the brain and is carried to the nerves of the pelvis.
With time, there has been a sharp increase in discussing sexual matters with psychologists or doctors. It is essential to have a healthy sexual life as erectile dysfunction can be a symptom of various underlying diseases, such as cardiovascular problems and diabetes.
Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction refers to the inability to maintain the erection for about 25% of the time. Occasional failures are normal but if the process persists and becomes obvious, treatment is required.
Erectile dysfunction, in some cases, can be a symptom of an underlying disease that needs treatment.
Diagnosis of Erectile Dysfunction
The process of diagnosis starts with a formal interview by the doctor. The doctor might ask questions related to the medical history, symptoms and the duration of the problem. The doctor might also inspect the ongoing treatment or use of drugs for any other reason. Recent physical or emotional changes may also be taken up by the doctor.
If the doctor finds that physical reasons are responsible for the condition, he/she might advise to take blood test or a test of the hormonal levels to check whether sexual health is alright. These tests are also conducted to test if any other disease, such as diabetes is affecting the process. The doctor might also try to zero in on the use of any ongoing drug that, he thinks, might be responsible for the disease.
Apart from these examinations, the doctor might advise to go for special laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include any one or a combination of the following
Nocturnal tumescene test: this test is used to evaluate whether any physical reasons are involved for the disease. To confirm that nonphysical reasons are to blame, the doctor might ask whether the individual obtains erection during masturbation, with a partner or while sleeping. Usually, a normal male will undergo many erections while sleeping without actually knowing it.
The test involved wrapping the penis with a normal perforated tape before going to sleep. If the wrapper is found separated in the morning, it is obvious that the individual had an erection sometime while sleeping, which confirms that he’s physically alright.
Dynamic infusion cavernosometry and cavernosography (DICC): This test is performed to test the proper flow of blood and its pressure. The process involves injecting a dye into the penis to trace the blood flow and check for abnormalities. The procedure needs an experienced urologist, specializing in erectile dysfunction.
Neurological tests: neurological tests may be performed to check the normal response to touch in the genital area. This requires a physical examination and test.
Ultrasound: Ultrasound can be helpful in determining the proper flow of blood into the penis. A wand like device is used, known as transducer, to check the vessels which supply blood to the penis. The transducer is used to emit and record sound waves which form an image which can tell whether the blood flow is alright. This test is usually done before and after applying medication to judge improvement.
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
There was a time when it was believed that erectile dysfunction is a result of only psychological reasons. But recent researches have revealed that many of the physical factors also contribute to erectile dysfunction. The most common causes of erectile dysfunction include the following;
• Cardiovascular diseases
• Clogged blood vessels, a disorder of the veins known as atherosclerosis.
• High blood pressure or hypertension
• Metabolic syndrome
Apart from the physical reasons, there could be a gamut of other factors that may result in erectile dysfunction. Some of the common reasons include the following;
• Certain prescription medications may have side effects resulting in ED
• Excessive Tobacco use may hamper normal sexual process of the body.
• Alcoholism and other forms of drug abuse are harmful for the sexual health.
• Hormonal disorders such as low testosterone, also known as hypogonadism may lead to abnormal erectile functioning.
• Peyronie’s disease can also lead to ED.
• Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord may disable the pelvic nerves to perform normal function.
• Treatments for prostate cancer can lead to dysfunctional sexual health.
• Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis may also be responsible for ED.
Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction
The most common oral medications for treating ED include Viagra or sildenafil, levitra or vardenafil and cialis or tadalafil. The action of all these medications is almost the same. These medicines enhance the action of nitric oxide, which in turn relaxes the muscles in the penis. This ultimately increases the blood flow into the penis and lets the natural process to occur in a preferable manner. However, these medications don’t produce automatic erection. Usually, psychological and physical stimuli are required for erection. Many men have been benefitted from the use of these drugs but often, these may be a matter of annoyance, especially with checking the spams (e mails), though, altogether a different sphere of activity. However, these drugs should not be used simultaneously with nitrate drugs for angina, blood-thinning (anticoagulant) medication and some types of alpha blockers for enlarged prostate (BPH) or high blood pressure.
Another medication prostaglandin finds use in two types of treatments, the needle injection therapy and self-administered intraurethral therapy (Muse). While the former injects the drug directly into the penis, the latter includes application or insertion of tiny alprostadil suppository into the tip of the penis.
Psychological counseling and sex therapy: This type of treatment is particularly useful if there are psychological factors, such as anxiety, depression and stress is the reason for impotence. This includes counseling from a sex therapist and subsequent psychological treatment.
Hormone replacement therapy is effective for those who have hormonal troubles, such as lower levels of testosterone. Penis pumps and penile implants may also be useful in severe cases of impotency. However, these include the use of external help in maintaining proper erectile functions. Vascular surgeries may also be performed to open up blockages, if any.
Living with Erectile Dysfunction
For a reasonable number of patients, erectile dysfunction leads to relationship and psychological problems. It is essential to understand the symptoms and go for regular checkups and tests to keep the problem in its minimum. A thorough discussion with the sexual partner and sexual therapist may also be of much help in the condition. Moreover, it is essential to follow the medications and advises offered by the physicians and therapists. Taking healthy diets and working out regularly can also provide the much needed stimuli and relief from stress, anxiety and depression which may be the hidden cause behind all this.
Prevention of Erectile Dysfunction
The best way is to co-operate with your doctor to manage other diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Next, the use of alcohol and illegal drugs such as marijuana should be avoided. Stopping smoking can also offer relief in many cases. Regular exercise is also a good way to subside erectile dysfunction. Reducing stress, having enough sleep and treating anxiety or depression may also be critical in preventing erectile dysfunction. The last and most important preventive measure is to see your doctor for regular checkups and tests.