Erectile dysfunction

Years ago it was taboo to talk about erectile dysfunction but thankfully attitudes have now changed. Although some patients may still find it embarrassing to talk to their health care professional about sexual issues, getting help for erectile dysfunction is worth the effort. This is a condition that cannot be taken lightly especially as it can be a sign of a more serious health problem.

Erectile dysfunction occurs when a man is unable to maintain an erect penis sufficient for satisfactory sexual intercourse. It also occurs when sexual stimulation or arousal does not result in enough blood flow to the penis which leads to an erection . This condition only affects men and is more likely to increase with age. Erectile dysfunction is often confused with impotence – this term is used to describe other problems that interfere with sexual intercourse and reproduction, such as lack of sexual desire and problems with ejaculation or orgasm.

This condition is often hard to measure as men are less likely than women to talk about physical conditions as they find it uncomfortable. Erectile dysfunction may be as a result of psychological or physical reasons but either way this condition is distressing. It could lead to a loss of confidence and self-esteem or depression, as well as relationship problems.

Physical reasons for erectile dysfunction could include the following:
•    Cardiovascular disease
•    Nerve damage (which is common in men with diabetes)
•    Brain and spinal injuries
•    Smoking
•    Fatigue
•    Excessive intake of alcohol
•    High cholesterol which narrows the blood vessels.

Psychological reasons for erectile dysfunction could include:
•    Stress
•    Relationship problems
•    Depression
•    Existing values and attitudes to sex
•    Anxiety
•    Intimacy problems
•    Guilt.

But help is available and the condition is totally manageable. Erectile dysfunction is treatable at any age and awareness of this fact has been growing. More men have been seeking help and returning to normal sexual activity because of improved, successful treatments.  But first off you have to recognise there is a problem and then talk to your health care professional about treatment solutions. Treatments, especially oral medication, can help relax the blood vessels which then allow the penis to become filled with blood resulting in an erection.

Treatments can include:
•    Vacuum treatment (a physical device to be used prior to sexual intercourse)
•    Counselling to help identify psychological reasons – it is also a good idea to involve your partner
•    Hormone treatment
•    Oral treatments like Sildenafil (Viagra),Tadalafil (Cialis) or Vardenafil (Levitra).

Although there are treatments for erectile dysfunction, it is also a good idea to look at making changes to your lifestyle. Ask your community pharmacist about ways to cut down on alcohol, to stop smoking and to reduce stress.