Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. If you have erection problems every once in a while, then it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if it is a recurrent issue, then it’s time to visit a doctor. Many men find it embarrassing to discuss the condition. Most of them develop low self-esteem, especially when the problem affects their relationships. ED is associated with age – as men grow old, it takes longer to get an erection, and may not be as firm as it was when they were young. However, even young men are susceptible to the condition, particularly if drinking excess alcohol or taking drugs. A study on ED in young men showed that one in four patients who were diagnosed with ED were less than 40 years old, with half of the respondents experiencing severe ED. Erectile dysfunction is a result of many underlying problems, including diabetes, hormone imbalance, injury to the bladder, penis, pelvis or prostate, and alcohol abuse. Psychological and emotional issues can also cause the problem. Some medications are also known to cause difficulty in getting an erection.
How an Erection Develops
An erection is a result of an increased flow of blood into the penis. The flow is stimulated by direct contact with the penis or sexual thoughts. When a man is sexually excited, the muscles in the penis relax, causing increased flow of blood to the penile arteries. The blood flows to two chambers called the corpora cavernosa, causing the penis to become rigid. When the muscles contract and the accumulated blood flows out of through the penile veins, the erection ends. ED develops during one of these stages of the erection process. For instance, the penile arteries may be damaged, causing blood to not flow in properly.
Signs that You Have ED
Difficulty in Achieving an Erection
This is the most obvious symptom of erectile dysfunction. Intermittent difficulty when trying to get an erection is normal. However, if the problem is persistent and unpredictable, then it is a sign that you have ED.
Inability to Get an Erection
Some men report having trouble getting an erection at all, which leads to feelings of guilt, distress, shame, and embarrassment. You may develop an erection after a lot of foreplay, but if the erection can only be maintained for a short time or is too soft to have sex, then you may have ED.
Lack of Sex with Your Partner
Some men have difficulty getting an erection with a sexual partner but don’t have problems masturbating alone. This situation indicates you have stress-related ED.
Over-activity During the Night
Your quality of sex may also be compromised if you are experiencing lots of erections during the night. The condition is also known as nocturnal penile tumescence, which causes men to develop random erections but can’t have them when stimulated. It is also a sign of erectile dysfunction that is often caused by psychological factors. Other causes include indulgence in specific medication, e.g., sildenafil and problems with the nerves or flow of blood.
A study conducted in Taiwan showed that men with ED were more likely to be diagnosed with chronic periodontal disease. Poor dental hygiene is believed to cause harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream, affecting its flow to the penis.
- Delayed ejaculation
- Premature ejaculation
- Reduced sex drive
- Anorgasmia: Failure to achieve orgasm even after prolonged stimulation
How is ED Diagnosed?
Patients who have this problem should visit a doctor for a physical examination. However, if the problem is a result of other health conditions, then you may need to visit a urologist for:
- A mental health examination
- Blood tests
- An ultrasound of the penis
- An overnight test of an erection
The form of treatment administered depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Some men respond after taking medication, while others need a combination of treatments, including therapy and lifestyle changes. Your doctor may recommend making specific lifestyle changes, like quitting drinking and smoking or developing an exercise routine. He may also suggest changing medication that may be contributing to the problem. Testosterone replacement and medication administered directly to the penis to aid in erection are also available.