Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Overview
Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is a male sexual dysfunction that prevents men from achieving an erection strong enough for sexual activity. Erectile dysfunction (ED) may be caused by psychological issues such as a lack of self-confidence or relationship stress. However, ED may also be caused by an underlying condition like heart disease.
Many men may feel uncomfortable talking about their condition if they experience ED. But this condition is very common and affects roughly 30 million men in the United States. If you have ED, there is no need to be embarrassed. Your doctor likely treats many cases of ED every year, so they will be understanding and professional. In some cases, treating the underlying condition can resolve ED. In other cases, medications may be needed to reverse this sexual dysfunction.
Symptoms of ED
If you have any concerns about your erections, you should speak with your doctor. Diabetes, heart disease, and various other health conditions have been known to cause ED. Your doctor can determine the severity of your condition and beneficial next steps. Erectile dysfunction causes the following symptoms:
- • Reduced sexual desire
- • Difficulty getting an erection
- • Trouble keeping an erection
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
As previously mentioned, erectile dysfunction can be caused by psychological factors, physical factors, or both. The process of male sexual arousal is complex, involving the brain, emotions, nerves, hormones, muscles, and blood vessels. Sometimes, a minor physical problem can increase mental stress and worsen ED symptoms as a result. First, let us discuss the physical causes, which includes:
- • Tobacco use. Smoking may seem sexy, but it can damage the arteries and reduce blood circulation, causing erectile dysfunction. An erection requires the penis to fill with blood and enlarge. If the blood vessels in the genital area is damaged, blood cannot reach the penis, and an erection cannot be achieved.
- • Diabetes. Like tobacco smoke, diabetes can damage the blood vessels. Diabetes involves persistent high blood sugar, which can damage the nerves. If the nerves that control an erection are damaged, ED occurs.
- • Low testosterone. You sex drive may decrease as a result of low testosterone. However, some men have healthy erections despite having low testosterone, so the link isn’t completely clear. What we do know is that low testosterone is linked to other conditions like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease—all risk factors for ED.
- • High cholesterol. This health condition involves plaque buildup in the blood vessels and decreased circulation. Clogged blood vessels can often lead to atherosclerosis. If the blood vessels around the penis are affected, erectile dysfunction is more likely to occur.
- • Alcohol. Long-term erectile dysfunction is linked to heavy alcohol use. In addition to ED, alcohol is linked to premature ejaculation and loss of sexual desire, so heavy drinkers should cut back in order to improve their sex life.
Listed here are just some of the more common causes. Other ED causes may include obesity, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and the use of certain medications. Surgeries or injuries to the pelvic area or spinal cord may also lead to ED.
Now that we have covered the physical causes of erectile dysfunction, what are some psychological factors? Because the brain is critical to sexual excitement, arousal, and achieving an erection, mental health problems can seriously interfere with your sex life.
For example, depression can cause fatigue and low self-esteem, which can dampen your motivation to seek sexual pleasure. Relationship stress can also hurt a man’s confidence, which can lead to poor performance in bed.
It is important to address mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. If you have a pessimistic or dark outlook on life, speak with your doctor or book an appointment with a psychiatrist. Mental health and physical health are intricately linked. Feeling better mentally can have a positive impact on sexual desire and stronger erections.
Who is at Risk of Erectile Dysfunction?
Men with diabetes, heart conditions, or other health problems that can damage the blood vessels and the nerves in the body are at risk of erectile dysfunction. The following risk factors also apply:
- Obesity. Men who are overweight are more likely to have health conditions like high cholesterol and high blood pressure that affect the function of the penis. According to Harvard Health, men who are overweight (even with normal testosterone levels) have an increased risk of ED.
- Certain medications. Antidepressants, antihistamines, and certain high blood pressure medications can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction.
- History of surgery. If you have had a prostate surgery or radiation treatment for cancer, you may be more likely to develop ED. Invasive surgeries may leave injuries that damage the body’s erection control.
- Psychological conditions. If you have depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders, you are at a higher risk of ED.
- Long-term drug use. Those who use drugs or are heavy alcohol drinkers risk damaging their body and affecting their erections.
Erectile dysfunction is a condition that many men worldwide struggle with. But just because it is a common condition doesn’t mean you have to let it disrupt your sex life. Talk to your doctor today for treatment options.