What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex. However, problems getting or keeping an erection can signify an underlying health condition that needs treatment. Occasional ED is not uncommon, but if it’s an ongoing issue, it can cause stress, affect your self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
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 factors. Stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. Sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues causes ED. For instance, a minor physical condition that slows your sexual response might cause anxiety about maintaining an erection. The resulting stress can lead to or worsen erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction may be caused by:
- Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome — a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist, and high cholesterol
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Certain prescription medications
- Tobacco use
- Peyronie’s disease — development of scar tissue inside the penis
- Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse
- Sleep disorders
- Treatments for prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate
- Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord
- Low testosterone
Can psychological issues cause erectile dysfunction?
The brain plays a crucial role in triggering a series of physical events that cause an erection, starting with feelings of sexual excitement. Several things can interfere with sexual feelings and cause or worsen erectile dysfunction, such as:
- Depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions
- Relationship problems due to stress, poor communication, or other concerns
What are the signs and symptoms of erectile dysfunction?
The most obvious symptom of erectile dysfunction is an inability to get an erection. However, if you have erectile dysfunction, you might experience the following:
- Trouble getting an erection
- Trouble keeping an erection for a long enough period
- Reduced sex drive
- Feelings of embarrassment or guilt
- Low self-esteem
Can erectile dysfunction be prevented?
Measures that may lower the risk of getting erectile dysfunction, include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Stop smoking
- Losing excess weight
- Exercising daily
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Getting help for alcohol or drug addiction problems
- Learning about the side effects of medicines
- Considering couples counseling if you and your partner are having trouble communicating
Is erectile dysfunction manageable?
Specific exercises can help manage erectile dysfunction, such as:
- Kegel exercises – these simple movements can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
- Aerobic exercise – moderate to vigorous exercise is good for your overall health; it can also increase blood flow, possibly helping with erectile dysfunction. Examples include running and swimming.
- Yoga – can help to relax your mind and body. Since stress or anxiety can cause or contribute to ED, practicing yoga may effectively ease erectile dysfunction symptoms.
When to consult a doctor?
Please consult an Intercare doctor when:
- You are concerned about your erections or other sexual problems, such as premature or delayed ejaculation.
- You have diabetes, heart disease, or other known health conditions that might be linked to erectile dysfunction.
- You have other symptoms along with erectile dysfunction.