Facts, Causes, And Symptoms Of Infertility
Characterized by the inability to obtain and/or maintain an erection, erectile dysfunction, aka ED, is a treatable problem rather common in men. When the inability to engage in sexual intercourse becomes a problem, it is reasonable to seek treatments, even if it is only an occasional issue. Stigma words such as “impotence” are not descriptive of ED under strict definition. ED can lead to psychological depression and relationship difficulties if not treated.
When an occasional problem, stress is often the culprit. Frequent ED issues, however, may be indicative of more serious health problems. Blood flow to the penis results in an erection, while contraction of muscles causing outward blood-flow through veins in the penis will end an erection.
- cardiovascular disease
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- high cholesterol
- low testosterone
- hormonal imbalances
- kidney disease
- stress & anxiety
- depression and relationship problems
- medications and drug/alcohol use
- poor sleep
- Past surgery damaging nerves and blood vessels near the penis
- Blood pressure medications
- Antidepressants / Anti-psychotics
- Heavy bicycling (buying special seats to protect the perineum area can reduce this risk, but only applies to those who bike for many hours a week)
- Reduced interest in sex is a symptom of ED that should be discussed with a doctor, in particular if it’s lasted for 3 or more months.
After a symptoms/medical history interview, a doctor will perform a complete physical, with the focus on finding signs of poor circulation or nerve irregularities.Tests include:
- Ultrasound – examines blood flow
- Nocturnal penile tumescence test (NPT) – small device worn to analyze nocturnal erections
- Injection – stimulates erection for doctor to analyze
- Urine test – checks for diabetes and other health issues
- Blood test – checks for thyroid problems, testosterone levels, heart risks, and many others
Medications which stimulate blood flow to the penis are common, a few of them being:
- Viagra in South Africa
- Several others
Oral medications being the most common, penile suppositories or injections may also be used. Injections and suppositories may produce stronger erections with a faster onset: often within 10 minutes. Testosterone therapy for individuals with low testosterone are available, although hormonal treatments without medical monitoring may lead to serious, long-term side-effects, and carry a high risk.
Therapy through both psychiatry – where medications are involved – and counseling/talk therapy are recommended. Psychological diagnoses for anxiety, depression, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can be treated both medicinally and therapeutically. Relationship counseling is a common route.
Vacuum pump devices, which draw blood to the penis by creating a vacuum over the penis, with an elastic ring positioned at the base of the penis (to prevent blood from re-circulating) are safe for 30 minute usage periods.
Not only regular, cardiovascular exercise (combined with proper dieting), but there are specific pelvic-muscle strengthening movements – such as “Kegel exercises” – which, if performed several times daily for a few months may improve functioning. Aerobic exercise may effectively reduce body fat, which may increase testosterone levels. Even yoga/relaxation techniques contribute positively.
Surgery is an option, assuming medications and other methods have proven ineffective. These include:
– Penile Implants aka Prosthesis – used for long-term ED, there are two options:
Inflatable – two cylinders implanted that can be pumped full of fluid.
Malleable – adjustable rods used to direct position of the penis
- Whole grains
- Fruit (watermelon has been oft-cited)
- Cocoa (not recommended in high quantities)
- Horny goat weed
Consuming large amounts of supplements is not recommended. Research the ingredients and reputations of each supplement/company and be aware of your own health risks.
Age is the primary association with increases in ED incidence, for obvious reasons related to increased risk for the above-listed health concerns. As of mid-2019, only 5% of men age 40 had ED, while for men aged 70 the number rose to 15%. Diabetes raised the risk by 2-3 times, and can result in ED starting 10-15 years earlier. Approximately 100 million men are affected world-wide, with around one million in Australia. 52% of Australian men aged between 40-70 show some form of ED. This number includes ALL cases of intermittent and long-term ED, so is not related to the numbers cited above.
More important than ED itself are possible health risks as discussed, so be sure to speak with a medical professional if you exhibit symptoms, even infrequently.
GP from Cape Town. My interests: treatments of erectile dysfunction, urology. Contact me if you have any questions.