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Erectile Dysfunction- Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Imagine going out for a nice romantic dinner with your partner, then coming home to a glass of wine and anticipated ‘action,’ only for things to quickly go downhill. For a man, the inability to ‘rise to the occasion’ can be devastating. According to the Urology Care Foundation, erectile dysfunction is the most common sex problem reported by men, affecting close to 30 million.

Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is the inability for a man to get and maintain an erection firm enough to save sex. Occasionally, as a man, you will have trouble getting an erection. This could result from the medication you are taking, stress at work, or strain in your relationship. This is perfectly normal and likely to go away when the situation is resolved.

When it happens frequently or progressively, however, it is advisable to seek erectile dysfunction help. Research shows that ED is often a sign of cardiovascular and circulatory problems. As such, it should be taken with the seriousness that it deserves.

What are the Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction?

It is important to be able to differentiate between erectile dysfunction and occasional erection problems. Some of the most common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Inability to get an erection
  • Inability to maintain an erection
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Premature ejaculation

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction? 

Although a man can attain an erection in an instant, the underlying natural process is quite complex. It involves a combination of processes in the body and requires the participation of the brain, specific hormones, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and your emotional state. This means that sexual dysfunction can arise from one or a combination of these factors. There are also risk factors that can exacerbate the situation. Before we can talk about factors that influence erection quality, we must discuss how an erection happens.

When a man is sexually aroused, nerves trigger the release of chemicals that relax penile tissues allowing blood to gush into the two penile chambers called corpora cavernosa. These chambers are spongy and have the ability to hold blood and expand. As blood continues to enter the chambers, it is trapped under pressure with the help of membranes surrounding the corpora cavernosa. This trapped blood is what fills up the male penis, causing an erection.

When a man is experiencing erectile dysfunction, it means that something is interfering with this natural process. Perhaps there is insufficient blood flow to the penis, or the penis cannot trap the blood. There could also be interference with the signals sent from the brain to the penis.  All these could be caused by physical or psychological factors or a combination of both.

Causes of Erectile Dysfunction:

  • Nerve damage– Some leading causes of nerve damage are diabetes, spinal cord damage, surgery, multiple sclerosis, etc.
  • Lifestyle choices- Such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, obesity, substance abuse can impact erection ability.
  • Vascular disease- This is the leading cause of ED in men as it limits the amount of blood getting to the penis.
  • Diseases- Heart disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, Peyronie’s Disease, and similar illnesses can affect erection quality.
  • Hormonal issues– An imbalance of hormones can interfere with a man’s ability to get an erection. Low testosterone, in particular, can cause low libido and weak erections.
  • Psychological factors– Stress, undue pressure, anxiety, depression, relationship conflicts, and worry can all interfere with your erection quality.
  • Medication– Some types of medication can negatively impact erections. Similarly, specific treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can have adverse side effects.

What treatments are available for Erectile Dysfunction?

Depending on the severity of your situation, there are several avenues for treatment. The doctor will strive to identify the cause of your ED, particularly if it is connected to an underlying condition. This can be done through a series of blood tests, physical examination, or an ultrasound. The doctor might also ask you questions to rule out psychological causes like stress or depression.

Some available forms of ED treatment include:

Oral medication 

Some of the most common oral medications for erectile dysfunction are Viagra, also known as Sildenafil, and Tadalafil, trading as Cialis.  These sex pills work by enhancing nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that widens and relaxes veins, allowing increased blood flow to the penile tissues, resulting in an erection. These erection pills are not aphrodisiacs and will not increase sexual desire. They also come with adverse side effects, so you must get a prescription from a doctor who understands your medical history.

Testosterone replacement therapy

Testosterone is the male hormone that determines masculinity and sexuality. A deficiency of this hormone can significantly affect sex drive and performance. Testosterone therapy in the form of injections, patches, or gels can reverse this situation.

Penis implants & pumps

 If other methods are not effective, your doctor might recommend a penis implant. This is a surgical solution that involves placing inflatable rods on either side of the penis. The rods are then inflated from a fluid reservoir placed in the scrotum to achieve an erection when needed.

A penis pump, on the other hand, is a hollow tube placed over the penis and used to push out air. This creates a vacuum that pulls blood to the penis. A ring is then placed on the penis base to keep it firm and only removed after intercourse.

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements are natural nutrients formulated with herbal extracts, vitamins, amino acids, and minerals that boost various body processes. When it comes to ED, there are male enhancement supplements that can reverse its effects. These supplements contain ingredients that raise testosterone levels, increase nitric oxide levels, and improve blood flow.  Similarly, they contain aphrodisiacs that enhance sexual desire. Most also relieve anxiety and promote calmness, which is essential for sexual performance. Unlike prescription medication like Viagra, dietary supplements take longer to show results, but they do not cause any adverse side effects.

Lifestyle changes

Sometimes, all you need is to adjust a few things to improve your chances for better sex. It might help to stop or reduce smoking and alcohol consumption. Excess weight can be an issue, so regular exercise will do you a world of good. Strain in your relationship is another red flag. You may want to speak to a professional to help you work through any problems. Although stress is inevitable, find ways of coping to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with your sex life.

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