What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects the ability for men to get and maintain an erection. It can be caused by physical or psychological issues. Physical factors include problems with hormones, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels.

Erectile dysfunction can affect men of any age, but it typically affects men over 40. It is more prevalent in men over the age of 50. And ED becomes even more common for men over the age of 60.

Symptoms of Erectile dysfunction

Symptoms of erectile dysfunction include:

  • Failure to get an erection
  • Trouble keeping an erection
  • Loss of sexual desire

Some people also experience other sexual problems such as premature or delayed ejaculation.

Diagnosis for Erectile dysfunction

Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and take a history of medical conditions. Telling your provider about other medical conditions you have, as well as being specific about the symptoms you are having will help determine testing that may be needed. Some of the discrete testing your doctor will conduct might include:

  • Physical exam: an examination of your penis and testicles to look for anatomical conditions, or changes that may be linked to disease contributing to ED.
  • Blood tests: Your medical provider can order blood work to be done at a location near you. Blood work can check for diabetes and elevated cholesterol, which can damage nerves and blood vessels throughout your body. When the nerves and blood vessels that supply sensation to your penis and testicles are affected, ED can result. Blood work can also check for low testosterone, a hormone that affects libido, muscle mass, hair growth, and energy level, among other characteristics. Other hormones that may be evaluated include follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and thyroid hormones.
  • Ultrasound: This involves using a wand-like device that is held over the blood vessels that supply the penis and pubic area. It creates a video image to let your doctor see if you have blood flow problems in the penis and pubic areas. There are additional, specialized tests that can evaluate blood flow to the penis and pubic areas. Sometimes, you may be referred to a specialist for additional assessment or treatment.
  • Psychological exam. Your doctor may ask you a series of questions to screen for depression and other possible psychological causes of erectile dysfunction.

Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction

Once your healthcare provider has found the likely reason for your erectile dysfunction he/she will then suggest the best treatment plan. If you have conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol that are affecting your nerves or blood vessels, an important part of treatment will be controlling these conditions. There are oral medications that may also help, including:

  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Tadalafil (Adcirca, Cialis)
  • Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
  • Avanafil (Stendra)

These drugs are the only FDA-approved oral medication for erectile dysfunction. They are known as PDE-5 inhibitors. Their active ingredient causes dilation of blood vessels, which improves blood flow to areas of the body that are supplied by the blood vessels. The result of increased blood flow in the penis is improved ability to achieve and maintain an erection.

As with any medication, check with your doctor to see if there are potential bad interactions with other medications you are taking, such as nitrates for heart problems. PDE-5 inhibitors cause vasodilation in many blood vessels in the body, not just the ones supplying blood to the penis. Thus, they can affect blood pressure, or have adverse reactions when used with medications prescribed for blood pressure or other conditions.

Any medication carries a risk for side effects. For ED medications, mild side effects include headaches, body aches and pains, digestive problems, dizziness, changes in vision, flushness of skin, and congestion or runny nose.

Other serious side effects include priapism (erections that last longer than 4 hours), sudden changes in hearing, vision loss, and changes in blood pressure. Contact your health care provider immediately if you experience any of these side effects. And always ask a medical professional/medical provider for medical advice before deciding on the best treatment.

Because ED can be caused by psychological conditions as well, some people find counseling, such as talking therapy, to be helpful treatment. Counseling can reduce stress, and help couples with relationship concerns that may be contributing to ED. Your doctor may recommend mental health services instead of medication.

Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes that may help such as quitting smoking, losing weight, or increasing the amount of exercise you do. For many patients, leading a healthier lifestyle has improved ED symptoms.

FAQs

Can erectile dysfunction be cured?

Yes. Depending on the cause of the erectile dysfunction, it may be curable. Non medication treatment includes controlling stress and chronic diseases that affect blood and nerve flow to the penis. These treatments include being a healthy weight, and controlling diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Some medications available for prescription include Sildenafil (Viagra), Tadalafil (Adcirca, Cialis), Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn), and Avanafil (Stendra). Sometimes, referral to a specialist is necessary, for additional treatment options. Reach out to a healthcare provider if you have ED symptoms-as this condition can greatly affect your quality of life, and there are treatment options!

How can I improve my erectile dysfunction?

The best ways to improve your ED naturally are to eat healthily, maintain a healthy weight, reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol, limit alcohol, exercise regularly, don't smoke, and decrease the amount of stress in your life.

How do you treat erectile dysfunction?

Depending on the cause of your ED, some treatments include over-the-counter medications like Cialis, and Viagra or injected treatments. Some men find assistive devices like pumps can also be helpful. Talking therapy can help when the cause of ED is psychological.

What is erectile dysfunction?

​​​​Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects the ability for men to get and maintain an erection. Erectile dysfunction involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. So ED can be caused by psychological or physical issues.

What can cause erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by physical or psychological problems - and sometimes a mixture of the two. Some of the most common physical causes of ED are heart disease, problems with the blood vessels, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome — a condition involving increased blood pressure, insulin resistance (prediabetes), body fat around the waist, and high cholesterol. Other conditions that can trigger ED include Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Peyronie's disease — development of scar tissue inside the penis,.

Certain prescription medications, tobacco, too much alcohol or illegal drugs, and sleep disorders can also cause erection problems. So can treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate, surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord, and low testosterone.

How do you tell if you have erectile dysfunction?

​​​​Some of the symptoms of erectile dysfunction include premature or delayed ejaculation, inability to get or maintain an erection, and lack of sexual desire.

What drugs can cause erectile dysfunction?

Some of the drugs that can lead to erectile dysfunction are alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine, marijuana, methadone, nicotine, and opiates.

How can I help my partner with erectile dysfunction?

Your partner may feel embarrassed or inadequate so it’s important to show emotional support, understand that ED is common and also treatable. Some effective strategies for helping your partner with ED are to learn as much as you can about ED, let your partner know you value them, talk about your feelings and stay positive. You might want to support your partner by speaking with their healthcare provider with them. And there are other ways you can stay intimate with your partner in the meantime that don’t involve an erection.

When do I see my doctor for erectile dysfunction?

If you notice an increasing inability to get an erection or maintain one, or experience a lack of sexual desire, these could be a sign of other serious health problems, so contact your doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. They’ll be able to recommend the best testing and treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Which doctor do I see for erectile dysfunction?

You should start with your primary healthcare provider. They will conduct some tests to guide treatment. Sometimes, if symptoms are severe or not improving with recommended treatment, your health care provider may refer you to a specialist, like a urologist.