Understanding the Complexities of Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
A common health condition among many men worldwide, ED, is the inability to either achieve or maintain an erection that’s viable for sexual intercourse. This condition is most common among men that are 40 years old or older, but it can affect many different age groups.
The prevalence of ED tends to increase with age, and it can also stem from a variety of other health conditions. It should also be mentioned that diet can play a role in the existence of ED as well. In this article, you’ll dive into extensive details about erectile dysfunction, as well as symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of the medical conditions.
An In-Depth Look at Erectile Dysfunction
Known as a symptom of numerous underlying pathologies, ED is also considered to be an underutilized cardiovascular risk factor.
Many diseases affect the nerves, hormone levels, corporal endothelium, penile arteries, and more which can lead to erectile dysfunction.
Some health complications that are closely related to ED include some of the following:
- Diabetes mellitus hyperlipidemia
- Cardiovascular disease
Although there are others, these are seen as some of the leading causes of diseases that can cause symptoms of ED. Many of them share endothelial dysfunction as a common pathway to this medical issue.
In a majority of cases of ED, the conditions stem from natural causes, as it’s pretty common with men as they age. However, ED can be a sign of a primary psychological issue in younger men, and the prevalence of ED in younger men can vary greatly.
Not only can erectile dysfunction cause a handful of medical complications, but it can also lead to psychological consequences such as marital and relationship issues, anxiety, depression, and loss of self-esteem.
In extreme cases, erectile dysfunction can be quite debilitating for men, and the emotional impact can affect their quality of life in more ways than one. The good news is that ED comes with many different treatments that are known to be quite effective, regardless of the cause.
What Causes ED?
With a blend of psychological and organic factors to consider, the cause of ED could look different from patient to patient.
There are a few common causes of erectile dysfunction, and these include cardiovascular diseases and hypertension, as these are common issues that come with natural aging.
Other common causes related to the acceleration and deterioration of erectile dysfunction on a molecular level include diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome.
Although there are primary causes of ED, there are other health factors that can contribute to the development of the health condition.
Some of these factors include the following:
- Traumatic injuries
- Hormonal issues
- Neurological diseases
- Sleep apnea
- Various medications
- Recreational drugs
A significant risk in the development of erectile dysfunction is cardiovascular disease. Regarding the penile cavernosal arteries, these share multiple similarities with coronary arteries. This particular health issue has the potential to lead to early vasculogenic erectile dysfunction.
Many young men don’t have any issues with ED and tend to disregard its prevalence in later years of life.
Rarely do men consider the many factors that can cause erectile dysfunction, which can possibly lead to a rabbit hole of lifestyle changes to ensure it doesn’t become a long-term problem.
To guarantee you receive the right treatment for the specific cause of erectile dysfunction, doctors have to explore different options for diagnosis.
How Diagnosis Works
After a review of your medical history as a whole and a detailed physical examination, your doctor will be looking to diagnose the exact cause of erectile dysfunction. This process will generally start with a look into the patient’s sexual history and any relevant associated information.
Doctors will also need to learn about any medications or recreational drugs the patient may be taking. These can include prescription medication, supplements, over-the-counter drugs, as well as illegal drugs.
Doctors will also look into a variety of psychological factors which primarily consist of anxiety, depression, and different levels of stress.
They’ll likely ask about the frequency, duration, and quality of a patient’s erections and the circumstances of when ED happens to occur.
Sexual techniques, relationship troubles, and the timing of erections are equally important bits of information for a doctor to deliver an accurate diagnosis. In some cases, doctors may also want to speak with your sexual partner for additional insight into the patient’s situation.
Once this initial discussion and physical exam are concluded, the doctor may order several tests to further explore the existence of ED.
Checking Liver and Kidney Function
A rather simple test, checking the function of the liver and kidneys, can offer insight into ED. These are blood tests, and the improper function of these organs can be a cause of erectile dysfunction.
The thyroid affects numerous aspects of the human body, but one of the thyroid hormones has a direct correlation to the production of sex hormones. If these hormones show a deficiency, it could mean issues with the thyroid could be causing the prevalence of erectile dysfunction.l
Duplex Ultrasound Test
Known as one of the most effective ways for diagnosing erectile dysfunction, this ultrasound test utilizes high-frequency sound for imaging of bodily tissues. In turn, this can be beneficial in the evaluation of blood flow.
Doctors will use this information to look for hardening of the arteries, venous leaks, or even scarring of certain tissues.
It’s common for this test to be performed while the penis is soft and erect.
For individuals who are deemed candidates for vascular reconstructive surgery, arteriography may be a helpful test. For this specific test, a dye is injected into the artery in question, and X-rays are taken for further exploration.
With the help of electromagnetic vibration, doctors can use this test to determine nerve function and general sensitivity. If decreased sensitivity is found, this could pose an indication that nerve damage is present.
There are many other options for diagnosis, but the ones that are chosen are based on the particular situation of each patient. After diagnosis is complete, doctors will move forward with the management and treatment of erectile dysfunction.
Treatment and Management of ED
Whereas there are numerous methods to deliver an accurate diagnosis, patients also have a vast variety of treatment options available to them. A starting point for many patients is to work with oral medications like Viagra (Sildenafil), Cialis (Tadalafil), Levitra (Vardenafil) or Stendra (Avanafil).
If a patient isn’t interested in these solutions or simply doesn’t want to take medication, there are other options they can explore. From surgery to vacuum devices and injections, there are many methods to manage or treat the effects of erectile dysfunction.
Common treatment options for ED include some of the following:
- Vacuum devices
- Sex therapy
- Oral medications
- Penile implants
- Penile injections
- Intraurethral medication
Of course, there are varying pros and cons related to certain solutions, but each of those mentioned above is known to be relatively common.
To find the best possible treatment, it’s important the doctor and patient find the underlying cause of ED beforehand.
When it comes to surgical solutions, there are quite a few surgical and non-surgical methods that bring sex functionality back to normal.
Penile prosthesis surgery
These are implanted through outpatient surgery, and this prosthesis gives men the ability to have an erection at a specific time.
The surgery considers the preservation of penile sensation, ejaculation, and orgasm, but some of this may vary for each patient.
Doctors will discuss different types of penile implants, but one of the most common includes inflatable cylinders in the erection chambers.
This type of implant requires a process of inflating and deflating the prosthesis. Although it may seem like a hassle, it’s an effective solution for erectile dysfunction.
In many cases, men experience erectile dysfunction due to various psychological factors. This can be exacerbated if coupled with organic factors as well. Trained counselors will explore fear, anxiety, and guilt associated with sexual dysfunction.
Sex therapy is a beneficial solution for many men and is generally a priority before invasive procedures are explored.
Erectile Dysfunction Medications
As mentioned earlier in, several medications are common solutions to help manage the effects of ED.
Some of the most common medicines for ED are Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. Each of these comes with unique compounds and helps to make improvements to the flow of blood to the penis.
A few side effects of these medications include nasal congestion, headaches, indigestion, and flushing.
You’ll find that doctors may suggest a variety of different methods for the treatment and management of ED, but those listed above are some of the go-to options for most men. Overall, patients shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions and work closely with their doctor to end up with the best possible outcome for their sexual health.
Erectile dysfunction is a medical condition that’s much more common than many people understand.
Although it can come with rather debilitating physical and mental stress, it doesn’t have to be a permanent problem.
Men have numerous options to choose from regarding diagnosis, treatment, and management of ED. On top of treatment, men can also make various lifestyle changes to influence significant positive changes in their struggle with erectile dysfunction.