Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a significant and common medical condition.
Erectile Dysfunction can be defined as the inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual activity. Health professionals in general prefer the term "Erectile Dysfunction," which more precisely defines the nature of the condition than does an older word that is sometimes used -- "impotence" -- because the later implies weakness to many people. It is estimated that as many as 100 million men worldwide suffer from ED. However, more than 85% of men with ED don't seek treatment. Among the reasons are the incorrect assumptions that ED is a normal consequence of aging and that there is no treatment available. The truth is that the likelihood of ED does increase with age because the prevalence of the underlying conditions that are associated with ED increases with age. The failure of sufferers to seek treatment is especially unfortunate because ED is a treatable condition and may be a symptom of another underlying medical problem that needs to be treated as well.
Myth: Erectile Dysfunction is uncommon.
Fact: A large health survey in the U.S.A. found 52% of men aged 40 to 70 years had some degree of difficulty achieving and/or maintaining an erection. Approximately 35% had moderate or complete ED.
Myth: The majority of cases of Erectile Dysfunction are psychologically caused.
Fact: Although ED was commonly thought to be linked to psychogenic causes, studies suggest that only 10% to 30% of ED cases are caused by purely psychogenic factors. In the remainder, an organic component, e.g., vascular disorders, structural abnormalities, neurologic damage, or endocrinologic disorders, can be identified. However, psychological factors such as self-confidence, anxiety, and partner relationship problems may also be involved.
Myth: Erectile Dysfunction is a condition affecting only elderly men.
Fact: By age 50, approximately half of all men experience some degree of ED. In general, the prevalence of ED increases with age, but men retain their erectile ability well beyond their eighties. Age-related conditions and medications used to treat various medical conditions increase the likelihood that ED will occur.
Myth: Erectile Dysfunction is complex to diagnose and treat. Patients should always be referred to a specialist.
Fact: Most cases of ED can be diagnosed and treated. However, a lack of information about ED among the public and health professionals and reluctance by physicians and patients to discuss sexual matters has resulted in patients being denied the benefits of treatment.
Myth: Men must learn to live with ED.
Fact: Effective and well-tolerated treatments are available.
Causes of ED
Many people incorrectly believe that ED is a purely psychological problem. Erectile Dysfunction is primarily physical in origin, but psychological factors, alone or in combination with physical factors, can cause ED.
Among the conditions associated with ED are:
- Hardening of the arteries and other vascular disorders that interfere with the flow of blood to the penis and the mechanism of erection
- High cholesterol
- Trauma, including injuries to the pelvis or spinal cord
- Certain types of surgery and radiation therapy
- Multiple sclerosis and other nervous system disorders
- Habits that worsen vascular disorders (e.g., abusing alcohol or smoking)
Current Treatments for ED
Various treatment alternatives are available and you should discuss them with your doctor. A primary care doctor can give a preliminary diagnosis of ED based on a patient history and a physical examination, but may refer a patient to a specialist, such as a urologist. Current treatments for ED include:
- Oral medication
- Intraurethral suppositories
- Injectable drugs
- Vacuum devices
- Penile implants
- Counseling and sex therapy
These methods have varying degrees of effectiveness and tolerability, and are used to treat ED caused by physical or psychological conditions.