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What is ED? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Thursday 2 April 2020
Erectile Dysfunction

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Common Symptoms

What Causes ED?

How to Diagnose ED

Oral Medications

Alternate Treatments

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Many people think that erectile dysfunction is a condition that affects only older men, but that is not always the case. According to The Journal of Sexual Medicine, one in four men who seek treatment for erectile dysfunction are 40 years of age. Almost half of those men had a severe case of ED. Men may not like to talk about this common condition, but they should not be shy to bring up ED symptoms with their doctor. The Cleveland Clinic cites that as many as 52 percent of all men experience erectile dysfunction, so you are not alone in this condition. [1] 

Those with ED have an inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex. This happens to almost every man in some capacity at some point in time, but it is not necessarily a cause for concern. ED can be caused by several things, but some underlying conditions may be more serious than others. Erectile dysfunction is usually a marker for overall heart health, so it is important for your doctor to closely evaluate your specific case. 

Common symptoms 

Erectile dysfunction symptoms include trouble getting an erection and reduced sexual desire. As mentioned above, almost every man experiences ED at least once in their life, but it is important to seek a doctor’s advice if your condition becomes persistent. You should see your doctor if:

  • You are concerned about your erections or other sexual problems, like premature or delayed ejaculation. 
  • You have some pre-existing conditions like heart disease or diabetes, which are often closely linked to ED. 
  • You are experiencing other symptoms along with your erectile dysfunction.

What causes ED?

This is a tough question to answer because every man’s ED is unique and caused by different factors. Male sexual arousal is a complex process and involves several bodily and psychological components including, emotions, blood vessels, nerves, and muscles. Stress, anxiety, and depression can also play a large part in a man’s erectile dysfunction 

The male anatomy is sensitive to various changes within the body, so there are several conditions that can result in erectile dysfunction. Obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure can cause ED. Visit here to learn more about the physical and psychological causes of ED. [2] 

a diagram detailing the mechanism of a flaccid and erect penis

Diagnosing ED 

Before going to the doctor to discuss your ED problems, you should make sure that you are getting the proper treatment for any other pre-existing conditions. Your doctor may order several tests to help determine what is causing your erectile dysfunction. These tests may include:

Physical exam: Your doctor will carefully examine your penis and testicles to check for proper nerve sensations.

Ultrasound: An ultrasound specialist will use a wand-like device over a patient’s penis to examine blood vessels. This ultrasound result will let your doctor know if the penis has any blood flow problems. 

Blood tests: A blood sample will tell your doctor if you are showing signs of heart disease, diabetes, low testosterone, or any other serious health condition. 

Psychological exam: The mind can play a large role in a man’s ED, so your doctor may ask you some questions in order to screen for depression or anxiety. 

Urine test (urinalysis): Urine tests can show if there are ketones in the urine, which is a common sign of undiagnosed diabetes.

Oral Medications

Once the cause of your ED is properly identified, your doctor will most likely prescribe an oral medication to improve your condition. These medications are most often:

These four medications contain a natural chemical in the body called nitric oxide. This chemical relaxes muscles in the penis, which increases blood flow and helps with erections during sexual stimulation.

It is important to understand that consuming one of these pills will not automatically give a man an erection. Stimulation is needed to cause the penile nerves to activate and these medications only amplify the signal to these nerves. These pills do not have any aphrodisiac qualities and should only be taken by those who are experiencing erectile dysfunction. 

It is important to tell your doctor if you are taking any herbal remedies, nitrate drugs for heart problems, or have very low blood pressure. [3] Click here to learn more about erectile dysfunction drugs

a young man looking down on a beach

Alternative treatments

Pills for erectile dysfunction usually make a marked difference for men, but there are alternative treatments for more severe cases. Some other medications can include:

Alprostadil self-injection: This treatment involves injecting a fine needle of alprostadil into the base or side of the penis. Alprostadil is a vasodilator that increases blood flow to the blood vessels. This medicine mimics a naturally occurring substance in the body by triggering an increase of blood flow to the penis. This injection works within 5 to 10 minutes and it can make sexual intercourse possible in 80 percent of men. [4] 

Alprostadil urethral suppository: This medication involves placing a tiny alprostadil suppository inside your penis into the penile urethra. These suppositories work within 10 minutes and can last for up to an hour. Some side effects can include minor bleeding and fibrous tissue formation inside your penis. 

Testosterone replacement: Erectile dysfunction may be linked to low levels of testosterone in men, which can be remedied by testosterone replacement therapy. 

Penis pumps and implants: If oral or injectable medications are not working for your ED, you may be recommended a penis pump or a penile implant. A penis pump is a hollow tube with a battery pump. This tube is placed over the penis and the pump creates a vacuum that pulls blood to the penis to create an erection. Penile implants are much more invasive and involve surgically placing malleable rods in the penis to keep it firm but bendable. This method is usually used as a last resort.[3] Visit here to learn more about the long term prognosis for persistent erectile dysfunction.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.