What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile Dysfunction (ED) can result from medical, physical or psychological factors. ED may be caused by a combination of factors that could also include medicine, alcohol or drugs. The physical and medical causes of erectile dysfunction include three basic problems:
Not enough blood flows into the penis. Many conditions can reduce blood flow into the penis including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and smoking. In addition, if the penis cannot store blood during an erection, a condition called venous leak or cavernosal dysfunction, then an erection cannot be maintained because blood does not remain trapped in the penis. Also, nerve signals from the brain or spinal cord do not reach the penis. Certain diseases, injury or surgery in the pelvic area can damage nerves in the penis.
Sexual activity requires the mind and body to work together. Psychological, emotional or relationship problems can cause or worsen ED; and include but are not limited to:
- Relationship Conflicts
- Stress at Home or Work
- Anxiety About Sexual Performance
The first line of therapy for uncomplicated erectile dysfunction is use of oral medications known as phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (PDE-5):
Men with erectile dysfunction take these pills before beginning sexual activity and the drugs boost the natural signals that are generated during sex, thereby improving and prolonging the erection itself. The medication works by relaxing the muscle cells in the penis allowing for better blood flow and production of a rigid erection. Although studies have shown these medications can be used by heart patients, men taking nitrates should speak with their physician before use to understand the possible drug interactions or effects on their other health conditions.
For men who do not respond to oral medications another drug–a combination of alprostadil, papaverine, and phentolamine, commonly known as Trimix–is approved for use in men with ED. It is used as an injection that the patient places directly into the side of the penis. Success rates in achieving a firm erection useful for sexual intercourse in men who have failed therapy with oral ED medications can reach up to 92 percent.
Who Gets Erectile Dysfunction?
Studies show about one-half of American men over age 40 have some degree of erectile dysfunction. At one time, health care providers thought that psychological problems, such as stress and anxiety, were the main causes of erectile dysfunction. Recent studies show most ED cases have a physical cause. While erectile dysfunction becomes more common as men age, growing old is not the cause of the problem. Though sexual function may decrease with age, many men enjoy sexual activity well into their senior years.
Erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign of a more serious illness, such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes mellitus. Diagnosing and treating the condition that causes erectile dysfunction can improve your overall well being, as well as help restore your sexual health.