What Is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when a man has persistent problems achieving and/or sustaining an erection. Erectile dysfunction can make sexual intercourse impossible without treatment. Erectile dysfunction can first emerge in a man as early as 40 according to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study on sexual dysfunction. They also found that an estimated 18 to 30 million men are affected by erectile dysfunction.
Does Erectile Dysfunction Mean Poor Libido?
Erectile dysfunction refers specifically to problems achieving or maintaining an erection. Other forms of male sexual dysfunction include poor libido and problems with ejaculation. Men with erectile dysfunction often have a healthy libido, but their bodies fail to respond in the sexual encounter by producing an erection. Usually there is a physical basis for the problem.
Can Low Testosterone (Low T) Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
While low T isn’t the only cause of erectile dysfunction, the two do seem to be connected. However, the connection between low testosterone and erectile dysfunction is complicated. Researchers believe two are connected because they both seem to coincide as a man ages. However, some men with low testosterone continue to produce healthy erections.
Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms
Symptoms of erectile dysfunction include erections that are too soft for sexual intercourse, erections that last only briefly, and an inability to achieve erections. Men who cannot have or maintain an erection at least 75% of the time that they attempt sex are considered to have erectile dysfunction.
Who Gets Erectile Dysfunction?
Sexual dysfunction is more common as men age. According to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, about 40% of men experience some degree of inability to have or maintain an erection at age 40 compared with 70% of men at age 70. And the percentage of men with erectile dysfunction increases from 5% to 15% as age increases from 40 to 70 years. erectile dysfunction can be treated at any age.
The Mechanics Behind Erectile Dysfunction
When blood fills two chambers in the penis (known as the corpora cavernosa) an erection occurs. This causes the penis to expand and stiffen, much like a balloon as it is filled with water. The process is triggered by nerve impulses from the brain and genital area. Anything that interferes with these impulses or restricts blood flow to the penis can result in erectile dysfunction.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatment: Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy can be beneficial for men with erectile dysfunction even when erectile dysfunction has a known physical cause. The therapist can instruct the man and his partner in techniques to reduce performance anxiety and improve intimacy. Therapy can also help couples adjust to the use of vacuum devices and implants.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatment: Alternative Therapies
Men with erectile dysfunction should talk with their doctors before trying supplements for erectile dysfunction. They can contain 10 or more ingredients and may complicate other health conditions. Asian ginseng and ginkgo biloba (seen here) are popular, but there isn't a lot of good research on their effectiveness. Some men find that taking a DHEA supplement improves their ability to have an erection. Unfortunately, the long-term safety of DHEA supplements is unknown. Most doctors do not recommend using it.
Reducing Your Risk of Erectile Dysfunction
To reduce your risk of erectile dysfunction, exercise and maintain a healthy weight, stop smoking, avoid alcohol and substance abuse, and keep your diabetes under control, if you have it.
Discussing Erectile Dysfunction With Your Partner
It's natural to feel angry or embarrassed when confronted with erectile dysfunction. Remember too that your partner is also affected. Talking openly about erectile dysfunction with your partner will help them understand the diagnosis and treatment options (and will reassure your partner that you haven't lost interest).