Erectile Dysfunction and Man’s Health13/02/2015
Erectile dysfunction, also referred to as impotence, occurs if a man cannot get or keep an erection that is firm enough for him to have to his satisfaction and the satisfaction of his partner. Impotence is also characterized by the consistent inability to sustain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse or the inability to achieve ejaculation, or both. It can involve a total inability to achieve an erection or ejaculation, an inconsistent ability to do so, or a tendency to sustain only very brief erections.
Research and experience have shown that most men have erection problems. Erectile dysfunction can occur at any age though it is more common in older men, who often have other health problems. Treatment can help both older and younger men. The symptom of an erection problem is being unable to get and keep an erection that is firm enough to have satisfying sex. Another symptom of impotence is reduced sexual desire. But even with an erection problem, a man may still be able to have an orgasm and to ejaculate.
Male sexual arousal is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction can result from a problem with any of these. Likewise, stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. Sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues causes erectile dysfunction. For instance, a minor physical condition that slows your sexual response might cause anxiety about maintaining an erection. The resulting anxiety can lead to or worsen erectile dysfunction. A comprehensive list of the major causes of erectile dysfunction is given below.
Physical causes of erectile dysfunction
Physical problems are said to cause about 8 out of 10 cases of all erectile dysfunction cases. Physical problems are often the cause of erection problems in men age 50 or older. They include:
- Side effects of medicines, including some medicines for high blood pressure or depression. In some cases it may be possible to change the dose of the medicine or to use another medicine.
- The use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs. Stopping or reducing the use of these substances may make the erection problem less severe.
- Problem with the blood vessels. These problems may prevent blood from filling the penis or from staying there long enough to maintain an erection. For example, long-term high blood pressure can cause damage to blood vessels and lead to erection problems.
- Problems with the nerves (neurologic problems). These may prevent arousal signals from traveling from the brain and spinal cord to the penis.
- Nerve disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s diseases, multiple sclerosis, and stroke may interfere with a man’s ability to have an erection. And they may lower sexual desire.
- Nerve damage from diabetes, complications from surgery, and spinal cord injury also may cause problems.
- Problems with the structure of the penis or its surrounding tissues.
- Hormonal factors, such as a low level of the hormone testosterone.
- Pelvic injuries and complications of prostrate or other surgeries that interfere with nerve impulses or blood flow to the penis.
Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction
The brain plays a key role in triggering the series of physical events that cause an erection, starting with feelings of sexual excitement. A number of things can interfere with sexual feelings and cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. These include:
- Depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions
- Relationship problems due to stress, poor communication or other concerns
Erectile dysfunction is not without complications. Complications resulting from erectile dysfunction can include an unsatisfactory sex life, stress or anxiety, low esteem and inability to impregnate a woman.
The risk of impotence increases with age. It is fourfold higher in men in their 60’s compared with those in their 40s according to a study published in the Journal of Urology (2000;163:460-463). As a man gets older, erections might take longer to develop and might not be as firm. The man might need more direct touch to his penis to get and keep an erection. This might indicate underlying health conditions or be a result of taking medications. Men with less education are also more likely to experience impotence, perhaps because they tend to have less healthy lifestyles, eat a less healthy diet, drink more, and exercise less.
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