It affects men of all ages but becomes more prevalent with age. Millions of men grapple with it, but shockingly few ever seek treatment. What shape does this common, underdiagnosed and, in many instances, untreated condition come in? Erectile dysfunction.
Explaining the underlying causes of Erectile Dysfunction
Generally speaking, causes of erectile dysfunction can be split into two levels: physical and psychological. The most common physical causes of ED are related to circulation and blood pressure. Heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure can all impact the amount of blood flowing to the penis.
However, between 10% and 20% of ED cases have a psychological cause. Because arousal starts in the brain, psychological issues can be an important contributing factor to erectile dysfunction. Mental health conditions like depression or anxiety can negatively impact your sexual impulse, making it more difficult for you to become stimulated.
Stress can also be a notable factor because it may intervene with your brain sending signals to allow extra blood to flow to the penis. In many instances, psychological issues grow into performance anxiety which in itself becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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How common is it?
Erectile dysfunction has been found to affect 1 in 4 males in the UK. These words are enough to make any man nervous. It is a private problem that many men find embarrassing or shameful to talk about.
Men who don’t seek treatment for erectile dysfunction often feel as though they are alone in their distress, but nothing could be further from the truth. As many as 40% of men experience some degree of erectile dysfunction
by the time they reach 40, and the number rises as high as 70% by age 70.
Erectile dysfunction is incredibly common, but many men fail to learn even the basics about exactly what it is, what causes it, and what can be done.
There are many studies with a solid understanding of the issue, observing direct effects, side effects, the action needed and other important factors that affect how each medication affects the body.
What treatments are available to me?
Erectile Dysfunction drugs – Medications like sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra) stimulate blood flow to the penis, allowing you to achieve an erection when you are sexually stimulated. (Thankfully, you won’t just get an erection immediately after taking them). These medications need to be taken before engaging in sexual activity.
Visit a Psychiatrist – For psychological causes of erectile dysfunction, therapy can be useful. Psychosexual counselling is a popular method because it helps address negative patterns of thought that can contribute to performance anxiety.
Lifestyle Changes – In cases where lifestyle factors such as obesity, an unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise play into erectile dysfunction. Making healthy changes to your lifestyle may resolve the underlying conditions causing your symptoms.
Visit a doctor – ED can be a sign of underlying health problems such as heart disease, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. So rather than simply trying to cure the symptom, it is important to make sure there isn’t something serious going on.
Scott McDougall (MPharm) is a clinical pharmacist and in addition to being Cornerstone’s senior in-house pharmacist, is the co-founder of The Independent Pharmacy, one of the UK’s leading independent online pharmacies.