WHAT IS IT?
Erectile dysfunction (impotence) occurs when a man cannot achieve an erection or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. Occasional trouble with erectile dysfunction isn’t a cause for concern, but if the problem is ongoing you should seek treatment.
Problems getting or keeping an erection can be a sign of an underlying health condition, and treating the problem may be enough to reverse your erectile dysfunction. Stress and mental health problems also can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. Often, the condition results from a combination of physical and psychological issues.
Factors that can contribute to erectile dysfunction include:
- Medical conditions, particularly diabetes or heart problems
- Tobacco use, which restricts blood flow to veins and arteries
- Being overweight
- Certain medical treatments, such as prostate surgery or radiation treatment for cancer
- Damage to the nerves that control erections
- Medications, including antidepressants, antihistamines, and medications to treat high blood pressure, pain or prostate cancer
- Drug and alcohol use, especially long-term use or heavy drinking
- Prolonged bicycling, which may compress nerves and affect blood flow to the penis, causing temporary erectile dysfunction.
A physical exam and a medical history often are all that’s needed to make a diagnosis. If your doctor suspects an underlying problem, you may need further tests. A variety of treatment options exist. They include:
- Oral medications
Some oral medications enhance the effects of nitric oxide, a natural chemical your body produces that relaxes muscles in the penis. This increases blood flow and allows you to get an erection in response to sexual stimulation.
Before taking any medication for erectile dysfunction (including supplements or herbal remedies), get your doctor’s OK. The drugs may be dangerous if taken with certain medications or if you have heart disease or uncontrolled high blood pressure.
- Other options
If medications don’t work or aren’t an option, other choices include:
- Pumps. A tube is placed over your penis, and a pump sucks out the air inside the tube. This creates a vacuum that pulls blood into your penis, creating an erection. To keep the penis firm, you slip a tension ring around its base.
- Penile implants. It involves surgically placing inflatable or semirigid rods into the two sides of the penis. This treatment usually isn’t recommended until other methods have been tried.
- Blood vessel surgery. In rare cases, leaking or obstructed blood vessels can cause erectile dysfunction and surgery is necessary to repair them.
Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.