A host of issues fall under the umbrella term “erectile dysfunction,” but what causes this diagnosis and how does it affect men who suffer from it?
Generally speaking, erectile dysfunction is the inability to maintain an erection that is firm enough for sexual intercourse. However, this issue can manifest in many forms. Some men find that they have a decreased libido. Others have no problem with sex drive but are unable to physically get an erection. Some men can get an erection only when they are by themselves, but not with a partner, while others can only get an erection during certain sexual acts. Premature ejaculation and delayed or absent orgasm also fall under this umbrella.
The good news is that there are treatment and support options for men with erectile dysfunction. This issue is quite common and our urological specialists, as well as advances in technology, can help.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
Depending on the type of erectile dysfunction — whether it affects a patient’s ability to get or keep an erection, or whether there is an issue with orgasm or ejaculation — there are different things happening in the sex organs.
Low-flow erectile dysfunction (or ischemic priapism) happens when blood becomes trapped in erection chambers and is unable to flow to the penis. High-flow (or non-ischemic priapism) erectile dysfunction is when an artery has ruptured in the perineum, blocking blood flow to the penis. These conditions can be accompanied by pain or discomfort, or they may not hurt at all.
A common cause of erectile dysfunction is an injury to the penis, anus, or perineum. Trauma to any of these areas can inhibit natural blood flow and the ability to get an erection. Heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and low testosterone levels can also be contributing factors.
Certain medications can cause erectile dysfunction. Tobacco use, alcoholism, and substance abuse are also common causes. Sleep disorders can play a role in erectile dysfunction as well. One of the more subtle but frequent causes is a mental health issue like anxiety or depression. Whether due to workplace stress or strain on a romantic relationship, anxiety and depression are not always obvious to the patient but may be the primary cause of his erectile dysfunction.
Effects of Erectile Dysfunction
The effects of erectile dysfunction include a decreased sex drive since sex becomes a frustrating act rather than an enjoyable one. Men may avoid social situations, stop dating, or become depressed.
The inability to get a partner pregnant can be a source of discontent among couples who are trying to conceive. Romantic partnerships can also become strained, or even end in separation or divorce. Couples may find decreased communication leading to overall dissatisfaction in their relationships.
One of the biggest presenting problems in men who suffer from erectile dysfunction is a loss of self-confidence. The inability to get or maintain an erection can take a toll on self-esteem. Men may find this lack of confidence spreading to other parts of their lives outside the bedroom, including work, parenting, and social life.
Treatment and Support Options
The biggest block for men is often just the ability to talk about their erectile dysfunction issues. Men may feel embarrassed and the stigma around this problem may keep them from sharing it even with their doctors. However, this is the first and most necessary step to getting help.
We prefer a multi-pronged approach to treating erectile dysfunction issues. Our urologists perform a thorough examination and lifestyle questionnaire to get to the root of the issue. Occasionally, testing is required to rule out a more serious issue. Once a diagnosis is made, the doctor can talk through treatment options, including emerging technologies, medications, and even simple techniques.
We also refer patients to therapy if needed. Many couples find that their relationships or marriages are preserved through participating in therapy while receiving other types of physical treatment. This is especially helpful for couples trying to conceive, or for men struggling with anxiety or depression.
If your sex life, relationship, or self-esteem are suffering from the effects of erectile dysfunction, give us a call to set up an appointment. We specialize in treating all variations of this common issue and can help you reclaim your health and your confidence.