Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual intercourse. This condition affects one in two adult males to various degrees. Even though effective treatments for Erectile Dysfunction had been available for at least a decade before Viagra® was released in March 1998, it had been difficult for the afflicted individual to know where to seek help. Since the successful launch of Viagra®, talking about sexual dysfunction and seeking help became less taboo. Nonetheless, the topic remains sensitive for most men.
The advent of Viagra®, Levitra® and Cialis® has helped many men restore sexual performance. For many others, the high hope in such oral medications has quickly been deflated in light of certain side-effects or lack of efficacy. For these men, to re-confront these problems becomes more challenging than the first time.
The above referenced medications are not for everybody and are not without risks. It is estimated that between 30-70 % of men do not respond to these drugs, depending on their age and underlying health problems, and at least 15% suffer from undesirable side-effects.
Erectile Dysfunction is very common. Although it tends to be more common in men over 40 years of age, it can affect all ages. In mid 1992, the results of the world's largest Erectile Dysfunction study called "The Massachusetts Male Aging Study" (MMAS) became available. These results showed that:
There are psychological and physical causes of Erectile Dysfunction.
Contrary to popular belief, only about 10% of cases of Erectile Dysfunction are psychological in nature, which are mostly the result of nervousness, lack of confidence or performance anxiety. In response to these situations, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, causing the blood vessels to constrict (vaso-constriction), temporarily reducing the blood flow to the penis, resulting in erectile difficulties.
Psychological Erectile Dysfunction can be self-perpetuating: each failure increases the associated anxiety levels and frequently leads to a continual failure, and eventually physical Erectile Dysfunction. Other psychological causes include stress, guilt, sexual boredom, depression etc.
It is now known that 90 % of cases of Erectile Dysfunction are caused or contributed by physical factors, most of which are related to impaired circulation, a condition generally referred to as "vascular insufficiency".
The penis requires a healthy blood flow to be completely erect. A marginally reduced blood flow can cause significant difficulties. Therefore, the risk factors for Erectile Dysfunction are primarily vascular risk factors. They include:
Note: According to FDA's alert May 2005, risk factors for developing sudden blindness in association with (though not conclusively proven) the use of Viagra®, Levitra® and Cialis® are: men above 50, diabetes, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, cardiac diseases and smoking. These are the same risk factors for developing Erectile Dysfunction at the first place!
Other physical causes are not common but can be readily diagnosed. They include:
Erectile Dysfunction can affect apparently healthy individuals as well.
Yes! Like any medical problem, Erectile Dysfunction should be treated promptly. The sooner it is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome, for the following reasons:
Recent studies indicate that couples with a healthy sex life are affected less by problems such as depression, anxiety, hypertension, diabetes, ulcers, chronic fatigue, virus illness and other ailments. They also have a greater life expectancy.