Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the inability to achieve and maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual intercourse. Many men don't talk about it, but it is extremely common, affecting more than 30 million men in the US! If you are experiencing erectile issues, it is important to speak with your physician. There could be underlying health conditions contributing to your erectile dysfunction, and a men’s health specialist will play an active role in your health and treatment plan for ED.
Top 5 Common Causes of Erectile Dysfunction:
ED and Vascular Disease:
Many men are uncomfortable speaking with their physician about erectile dysfunction symptoms; however, it is important to address this because ED can actually be a warning sign of current or future heart disease.
ED precedes coronary artery disease in almost 70% of cases. The arteries in the penis are very tiny compared to those in other parts of the body. If there is underlying coronary artery disease, these smaller arteries in the penis are affected by atherosclerosis (blocked blood vessels) sooner. Many times, we will refer patients to a cardiologist in order to determine if there is underlying cardiovascular disease.
You can reduce your risk of ED by improving your heart health. This includes increasing physical activity, quitting tobacco products, losing weight and following a healthy diet.
ED and Endocrine Disorders/Diabetes:
Diabetes is the second most common cause of erectile dysfunction. Half of men with diabetes will experience ED within 10 years of their diagnosis. High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves that control sexual stimulation. They can also damage blood vessels; these are necessary to provide adequate blood flow to the penis in order to achieve and maintain an erection.
While oral medications are a common first therapy, they tend to only work in about 50% of men with diabetes. Men with diabetes are more likely to move on to other treatment options, such as the pump, penile injection therapy, and penile implants.
ED and Medications
Some men notice issues maintaining an erection after starting a new medication. Common medications that can contribute to erectile issues are antidepressants, blood pressure medications, testosterone blockers, and hair loss pills such as Finasteride. Your doctor may switch you to another medication to see if that resolves the issue.
ED and Pelvic Surgery
Pelvic surgeries are a common cause of organic sexual dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction is a potential complication following prostate cancer surgery. The nerves that control an erection lie very close to the prostate and may be injured during treatment. With nerve-sparing procedures, some men may regain their previous level of erectile function, although it may take up to a year. Unfortunately, some men may not recover their ability to have a natural erection.
ED and Neurological Disorders
In order to achieve and maintain an erection, nerves must be working properly. ED can also be caused by neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. Nerve damage from spinal cord injuries and stroke can also cause ED.
It is important to keep in mind that even if you are dealing with ED, there are treatment options available to help you return to a satisfying sex life. If you would like to make an appointment, contact Utah Men’s Health.