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There are more than 600,000 new cases each year.
It affects men of all ages but becomes increasingly prevalent with age.
Millions of men struggle with it but shockingly few ever seek treatment.
What condition is this common while remaining underdiagnosed and, in many cases, untreated?
These words are enough to make any man nervous. It is a highly personal problem that many men find embarrassing or shameful to talk about.
Men who fail to seek treatment for erectile dysfunction often feel as though they are alone in their suffering but nothing could be further from the truth. As many as 40% of men experience some degree of erectile dysfunction by the time they reach 40 and the incidence rises as high as 70% by age 70.
Erectile dysfunction is incredibly common, but many men fail to learn even the basics about exactly what it is, what causes it, and what can be done. Keep reading to learn more about this condition and how you can best manage it.
What is Erectile Dysfunction Exactly?
Also known as ED, erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sex but what exactly happens? Inside the penis there are two long, cylindrical chambers called the corpora cavernosa which contain myriad blood vessels and tissues as well as one major artery in each of the two.
When you become aroused, your brain sends chemical messages to the blood vessels in the penis, causing them to dilate or open, allowing blood to flow into the penis. As the pressure builds, the blood becomes trapped in the corpora cavernosa, keeping the penis erect. If blood flow to the penis is insufficient or if it fails to stay inside the penis, it can lead to erectile dysfunction.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
The symptoms of erectile dysfunction include difficulty achieving an erection, trouble maintaining an erection, and a reduced interest in sex. Because male sexual arousal is a fairly complex process, it can sometimes be difficult to identify a specific cause. Arousal starts in the brain but it also involves the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels and can be impacted by hormones and emotions. If a problem develops with any of these things, erectile dysfunction could be the consequence.
Generally speaking, causes for erectile dysfunction can be divided into two categories: physical and psychological. Though each of these categories has its own set of contributing factors, many cases of erectile dysfunction involve causes from both categories. Here is an overview of each category:
Physical Causes of ED – The most common physical causes of erectile dysfunction are related to circulation and blood pressure. Heart disease, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure can all impact the amount of blood flowing to the penis. Diabetes contributes to ED by damaging your nerves and blood vessels.
Obesity and metabolic syndrome can cause changes in blood pressure, body composition, and cholesterol which may lead to ED. Other conditions that may contribute to erectile dysfunction include Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Peyronie’s disease, sleep disorders, alcoholism, and drug abuse. Taking certain medications can also increase your risk for ED.
Psychological Causes of ED – Between 10% and 20% of ED cases have a psychological cause. Because arousal starts in the brain, psychological issues can be a significant contributing factor to erectile dysfunction. Mental health conditions like depression or anxiety can negatively impact your libido, making it more difficult for you to become aroused.
Stress can also be a major factor because it may interfere with your brain sending signals to allow extra blood to flow to the penis. In many cases, psychological issues develop into performance anxiety which in and of itself becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Though it can sometimes be difficult to pin down the specific cause for your erectile dysfunction, it is always worth the effort. Left untreated, ED can contribute to worsened stress and anxiety as well as low self-esteem, relationship problems, and impotence. Keep reading to learn about treatment options.
What ED Treatment Options Are Available?
In many cases, diagnosing erectile dysfunction requires little more than a physical exam and a review of your symptoms. If your doctor suspects that an underlying health problem may be at play, however, he may request additional testing. Once you’ve determined the cause for your ED, you and your doctor can decide on a form of treatment – here are some of the options:
- Erectile Dysfunction Drugs – Medications like sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra) stimulate blood flow to the penis, enabling you to achieve an erection. These drugs need to be taken prior to engaging in sexual activity.
- Psychotherapy – For psychological causes of erectile dysfunction, psychotherapy can be beneficial. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular method because it helps address negative patterns of thought that can contribute to performance anxiety.
- Vacuum Constriction Devices – An alternative to oral medications, vacuum constriction devices can create an erection using vacuum pressure – once an erection develops, a constriction band is placed around the base of the penis to maintain the erection.
- Surgery – One of the more invasive treatments for erectile dysfunction, surgical options exist as well. Inflatable devices or malleable rods can be surgically implanted on either side of the penis to help achieve an erection.
- Lifestyle Changes – In cases where lifestyle factors such as obesity, unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise play into erectile dysfunction, making health changes to your lifestyle may resolve the underlying conditions causing your symptoms.
When choosing an erectile dysfunction treatment, you should take your time. There are many options available and while none of them is perfect, some may be a better fit for you than others. Before you start a course of treatment, be sure to tell your doctor about any drugs or supplements you may be taking and keep an eye out for side effects.
What is Your Next Step?
Having learned a great deal more about erectile dysfunction including its risk factors and causes, you should be equipped to assess your own erectile function. If you have experienced erectile issues or you have some of the risk factors mentioned above, it may be worth making a trip to your doctor’s office. If you choose to seek help, give your doctor as much information as you can about your symptoms including their frequency and severity as well as the onset. With your doctor’s help, you can determine the best course of treatment to restore sexual function.
Erectile dysfunction may be an unpleasant condition that no one really wants to talk about, failing to acknowledge it won’t make the problem go away. Your best defense against health problems like this is to learn everything you can about it so you can tackle the problem at the root. If you’re ready to stop living in embarrassment about your sexual function, become an advocate for yourself and your own health and talk to your doctor.
Important Safety Information
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
Do not take Sildenafil (sildenafil citrate) if you:
- take any medicines called nitrates, often prescribed for chest pain, or guanylate cyclase stimulators like Adempas (riociguat) for pulmonary hypertension. Your blood pressure could drop to an unsafe level
are allergic to sildenafil, as contained in Sildenafil and REVATIO, or any of the ingredients in Sildenafil
Discuss your health with your doctor to ensure that you are healthy enough for sex. If you experience chest pain, dizziness, or nausea during sex, seek immediate medical help
Sildenafil can cause serious side effects. Rarely reported side effects include:
- an erection that will not go away (priapism). If you have an erection that lasts more than 4 hours, get medical help right away. If it is not treated right away, priapism can permanently damage your penis
- sudden vision loss in one or both eyes. Sudden vision loss in one or both eyes can be a sign of a serious eye problem called non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION). Stop taking Sildenafil and call your healthcare provider right away if you have any sudden vision loss
sudden hearing decrease or hearing loss. Some people may also have ringing in their ears (tinnitus) or dizziness. If you have these symptoms, stop taking Sildenafil and contact a doctor right away
Before you take Sildenafil, tell your healthcare provider if you:
- have or have had heart problems such as a heart attack, irregular heartbeat, angina, chest pain, narrowing of the aortic valve, or heart failure
- have had heart surgery within the last 6 months
- have pulmonary hypertension
- have had a stroke
- have low blood pressure, or high blood pressure that is not controlled
- have a deformed penis shape
- have had an erection that lasted for more than 4 hours
- have problems with your blood cells such as sickle cell anemia, multiple myeloma, or leukemia
- have retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic (runs in families) eye disease
- have ever had severe vision loss, including an eye problem called NAION
- have bleeding problems
- have or have had stomach ulcers
- have liver problems
have kidney problems or are having kidney dialysis have any other medical conditions
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Sildenafil may affect the way other medicines work, and other medicines may affect the way Sildenafil works, causing side effects. Especially tell your healthcare provider if you take any of the following:
- medicines called nitrates
- medicines called guanylate cyclase stimulators such as Adempas (riociguat)
- medicines called alpha-blockers such as Hytrin (terazosin HCl), Flomax (tamsulosin HCl), Cardura (doxazosin mesylate), Minipress (prazosin HCl), Uroxatral (alfuzosin HCl), Jalyn (dutasteride and tamsulosin HCl), or Rapaflo (silodosin). Alpha-blockers are sometimes prescribed for prostate problems or high blood pressure. In some patients, the use of Sildenafil with alpha-blockers can lead to a drop in blood pressure or to fainting
- medicines called HIV protease inhibitors, such as ritonavir (Norvir), indinavir sulfate (Crixivan), saquinavir (Fortovase or Invirase), or atazanavir sulfate (Reyataz)
- some types of oral antifungal medicines, such as ketoconazole (Nizoral) and itraconazole (Sporanox)
- some types of antibiotics, such as clarithromycin (Biaxin), telithromycin (Ketek), or erythromycin
- other medicines that treat high blood pressure
- other medicines or treatments for ED
Sildenafil contains sildenafil, which is the same medicine found in another drug called REVATIO. REVATIO is used to treat a rare disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Sildenafil should not be used with REVATIO or with other PAH treatments containing sildenafil or any other PDE5 inhibitors (such as Adcirca tadalafil)
Sildenafil does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
The most common side effects of Sildenafil: headache; flushing; upset stomach; abnormal vision, such as changes in color vision (such as having a blue color tinge) and blurred vision; stuffy or runny nose; back pain; muscle pain; nausea; dizziness; rash.
Sildenafil (sildenafil citrate) is prescription medicine used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED).
Sildenafil is not for women or children.