Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a worry for all men and while most believe it’s an older man’s problem, it is actually quite common among younger men. In fact, 25 per cent of patients diagnosed with ED were under 40 in a 2013 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Of this 25 per cent, almost half suffered from severe ED.
ED can be a big problem, but what can you actually do about it? What are the facts?
There are all manner of treatments available for ED but it can be hard to know which ones are reliable, which ones are best for your particular issue, and which ones will never have any effect. To help you cut through the noise of myth and medical inaccuracy surrounding ED, I want to share some of my experience and help you understand key facts behind the condition.
The causes of erectile dysfunction
ED can be caused by a multitude of different things; it’s worth knowing the following, so you know when to speak to a doctor.
Narrowing blood vessels
Conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes can damage blood vessels and cause them to narrow. This in turn can reduce the blood supply feeding the penis and lead to ED. This can also lead to angina and stroke.
Crucially, erectile problems are one of the earliest signs indicating you may be suffering from one of these serious health problems. Keep a close eye on your blood pressure and get tested for these conditions, particularly if you’re over 40 years old.
In young men, anxiety is the most common cause of ED. Common triggers include the fear of getting your partner pregnant and pressure to perform. Small worries can build to a sense of immoveable anxiety, spiralling out of control and creating more worries in its wake. It’s a vicious cycle of fear which directly impacts your ability to get an erection.
Other psychological concerns, including stress, poor self-image, and depression, can also affect your libido and sense of sexual worth, often leading to ED.
Unfortunately, by treating something else you may experience ED as a side effect, since some prescription drugs can also cause ED. The most common medications for this are those used to treat prostate problems, heart conditions, blood pressure problem and depression. Since these are serious health conditions, don’t stop taking your medication if you experience erectile problems – speak to your doctor, who will advise you on the best course of action.
ED can sometimes be caused by a hormonal imbalance. These can include low testosterone, high prolactin and abnormal thyroid hormones.
Several well-known neurological conditions can contribute to ED, such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s which are fairly easy to diagnose. Such nerve problems usually appear well before ED first establishes itself.
It’s worth stressing that a man’s lifestyle choices directly impact his likelihood of getting ED. ED is more commonly found in men who are smokers, overweight, drink heavily or use illegal drugs, since these can all increase your likelihood of developing some of the serious health problems mentioned above. Luckily, we have the power to control these ED risk factors – a fit and healthy lifestyle goes a long way in the bedroom!
So now that we know the common causes, what can we do about it?
What you can do about erectile dysfunction
There are a range of effective ED treatments available to tackle each of these root causes. Let’s take a look at the most common treatments that are available.
Let’s start with this one because it can help more than just ED. As mentioned above, lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking heavily and using recreational drugs can lead to ED. Kicking these habits will reduce your risk of developing a whole host of health problems as well as ED.
Prescription medication remains one of the most effective treatments for ED. You’ve most likely heard of at least a couple of the main five prescription medicines for treating ED: Cialis, Spedra, Viagra, Sildenafil and Levitra. All five work in a similar way and increase blood supply to the penis – the main difference between them relates to cost, duration of effect, and response time. See our breakdown of the main differences here.
Since these medicines require a prescription, you should only use them if your doctor has deemed them safe for you.
If the root of your ED is psychological, physical treatments alone may not be effective. ED therapy and counselling are available and can help address the anxiety, depression and stress contributing towards your ED. Prescription medication, such as Viagra, may be used in combination with these sessions for a short period. For psychological support, we would recommend Thinkwell – we have worked successfully with them to help men deal with ED.
This is a rather rare option for treating ED. It is only used for severe cases of ED, once all other treatment options have failed. In such cases, implants are inserted into the penis to aid urination and getting an erection.