Dealing with erectile dysfunction can be challenging, but it often has medical causes that can be treated.
If your partner has difficulty having or maintaining an erection on a regular basis, he might have erectile dysfunction (ED). ED can affect an individual’s quality of life, stress level, self-confidence and relationship — but it doesn’t have to. Although it may be difficult to reach out for help, ED may be caused by other medical conditions and can sometimes be the first sign of a more serious underlying problem. If you’re experiencing ED, it’s important to visit your physician and get an examination.
Causes of ED
Getting an erection is part physical and part psychological, so the causes of ED can stem from either. Depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health issues can lead to ED, and it can become a vicious cycle, as ED can make stress and anxiety worse.
“It is natural to not feel great about admitting that things are not working like they used to,” says Mary K. Samplaski, MD, a urologist and male infertility specialist at Keck Medicine of USC and assistant professor of clinical urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “However, you should get it checked out for several reasons. One, ED may represent a more serious underlying condition; two, ED is more common than you think; and three, ED is usually fixable, and men are much happier when this part of their lives is in working order.”
Call for an Appointment
(800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273)
Physically, erectile dysfunction can be a symptom of heart disease. According to an article in the journal Circulation, the most common cause of ED is a blood vessel problem called atherosclerosis — more commonly known as clogged arteries. This affects the blood vessels throughout the entire body, including those that supply blood to the penis to obtain an erection.
Not surprisingly, other conditions associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, also can lead to ED. Diagnosing and treating ED can play a helpful role in maintaining a healthy heart and preventing cardiovascular issues.
ED can also be a sign of diabetes, especially in younger men. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), men with diabetes are two to three times more likely to experience ED than those who don’t have diabetes. This is due to the damage diabetes can cause to nerves and blood vessels.
Other medical causes that can lead to ED include prostate or bladder cancer and subsequent surgery, hormone problems, side effects from certain medications, multiple sclerosis and alcohol and substance abuse. Health-related factors like being overweight, obese, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and using illegal drugs may lead to ED, according to the NIDDK.
Treatments for ED
Treatments for ED may be as simple as daily modifications to live a healthier lifestyle. More exercise, weight loss and a balanced diet have been linked to improvements in ED symptoms, as well as the other medical causes associated with it. Quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol also can help. Prescription medications to treat ED are also available. Additional treatments may include injectables, suppositories, vacuum devices and surgery. Your urologist can help you evaluate which treatment option may be right for you. Check with your doctor before using any over-the-counter or herbal supplements to make sure they’re safe for you.
by Tina Donvito