What is erectile dysfunction?
If you're finding it hard to achieve or maintain an erection, you may have a medical condition called erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, does NOT mean that you're infertile, or that you can't ejaculate or have an orgasm. It's a common myth that people with erectile dysfunction lack virility - it is simply not true.
Around the world more than 100 million men have erectile dysfunction and the good news is that it's treatable.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
It was once believed that erectile dysfunction was a problem of the mind.
Instead we now know that most cases of erectile dysfunction occur as a result of vascular disorders which restrict the circulation of blood to the penis. These disorders are linked to hardening of arteries, high blood pressure, abnormally high cholesterol and diabetes. For example, erectile dysfunction affects 52% of men with high blood pressure, 61% of men with heart disease, 64% of men with diabetes and 40% of men with blood vessel problems caused by high cholesterol.
Your lifestyle may also have an impact - if you smoke, drink alcohol excessively or abuse drugs you may develop ED.
Although they are less common, some other health problems have also been associated with erectile dysfunction. These include Alzheimer's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, spinal traumas, some medications, surgery (particularly surgery of the prostate) and psychological imbalance.
Could I have erectile dysfunction?
You probably already know if you've been having problems either achieving or maintaining an erection.
It's nothing to be embarrassed about - so as soon as you think you may have erectile dysfunction you should see your doctor so they can diagnose and properly treat it.
It's important to be open and honest. If your doctor has not brought up the subject before it could be out of respect for your privacy. They should provide understanding, support and, best of all, information.
Your doctor will ask a few specific questions and conduct a routine physical examination. This should help them find the right treatment for you.
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Can erectile dysfunction be treated?
There are a number of treatment options available if you have erectile dysfunction. These include:
- Oral medications
- Mechanical devices
- Self-administered injections
- Counselling and psychotherapy
In most cases treatment is successful and allows you to resume your normal sexual relationship.
Erectile dysfunction doesn't only affect you - it can have a profound effect on your partner as well.
While erectile dysfunction isn't usually caused by a relationship problem, it may lead to problems down the track when it isn't understood or handled in the right way. Your partner may mistake your problem for a loss of attraction or interest.
For this reason, it's important for every couple to remember that the majority of cases of erectile dysfunction are associated with a physical condition. By talking opening and honestly about the problem, you can get through it together.
It's also a good idea to go to the doctor together. Then you will both get a clear idea of the condition and the treatment options that are available.