Erectile dysfunction is a common problem among men that men report to their doctor. It affects up to 30 million men worldwide. Erectile dysfunction is defined as a condition in which achieving and maintaining an erection cannot lead to satisfactory intercourse.
Although men experience erection problems from time to time, erectile dysfunction that progresses or occurs regularly is not normal and needs to be treated.
What happens during an erection?
During sexual arousal, nerves release chemicals that increase blood flow to the penis. Blood enters the two “erectal chambers” of the penis, which are made up of spongy muscle tissue called the corpus cavernosum.
During an erection, spongy tissues relax and retain blood. The blood pressure in the chambers makes the penis hard, which leads to an erection. With orgasm, a second set of nerve signals reaches the penis and causes the muscle tissue to contract, blood is pumped back into the male’s bloodstream, and the erection weakens.
Erectile dysfunction may be a major warning sign of cardiovascular disease. Some research suggests that men with erectile dysfunction are at significant risk of heart attack, stroke, or circulation problems in their legs.
The condition can result from health problems or emotional problems, or both. Some known risk factors are age over 50, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), cigarette, alcohol or drug use, obesity, and physical inactivity.
Although erectile dysfunction becomes an increasingly common problem with age, aging itself does not always lead to erection problems. Some men remain sexually active until the age of 80.
Physical causes of erectile dysfunction may include:
- Insufficient blood flow to the penis – this may be due to atherosclerosis, heart disease, high blood sugar;
- During an erection, blood does not remain in the penis – if blood does not remain in the penis, a man cannot maintain an erection. This problem can occur at any age;
- Nerve signals from the brain or spinal cord do not reach the penis – some diseases, injuries, or surgeries can damage the nerves of the penis;
- Diabetes can cause damage to small vessels and nerves;
- Cancer treatment near the pelvis can affect the functionality of the penis;
- Treatment of certain diseases can adversely affect erection. A detailed clarification of adverse reactions to drugs from the attending physician is necessary.
The emotional state also affects a person’s sexual health. Emotions and relationships in the social environment can cause or exacerbate erectile dysfunction. Emotional reasons can be:
- Conflict in the social environment;
- stress at home or at work;
- Stress from social, cultural, or religious conflicts
Erectile dysfunction treatment begins with caring for the health of the heart and blood vessels. Your doctor can point out risk factors that can be changed or improved.
You may need to change certain eating habits, stop smoking, increase physical activity, or offer an alternative to the medications you are taking.
Non-invasive treatments are often tried first. Most of the most popular methods work well and are safe. The most commonly used treatments are phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, testosterone therapy (for proven low testosterone levels), and surgery to bypass penile artery damage in young men. Surgery in older men is associated with certain risks.