Erectile dysfunction or ED is the inability to get or keep an erection, preventing a man from having or finishing sexual intercourse. While many men experience erectile dysfunction occasionally because of stress, fatigue, alcohol, or emotional issues, some men have recurring episodes of ED that occur 25% of the time.
A person with erectile dysfunction may be:
- Unable to get an erection at any time
- Able to get an erection sometimes but not every time they want to have sex
- Able to get an erection, but it does not last long enough to complete intercourse
The fastest way to cure erectile dysfunction depends on the underlying cause.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
Various conditions may result in erectile dysfunction, such as
- Diabetes, especially uncontrolled type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the walls of the arteries)
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
- Drug abuse
- Excessive alcohol or tobacco consumption
- Certain medications (such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, sedatives, appetite suppressants, or medications to treat prostate cancer)
- Injury to the brain or spinal cord
- Psychological issues, such as anxiety, stress, or depression, or relationship problems
- Radiation therapy to the testicles or pelvic region
- Hypogonadism (reduced levels of the male hormone testosterone)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Surgeries on the bladder or prostate
- Lack of physical activity
Is ED a Normal Part of Aging?
Although ED is commonly seen in older men, it is not a natural part of aging. Older men may need more sexual stimulation, such as touching or stroking, to achieve an erection, or they may need longer periods between two erections. Older men in good health, however, should be able to get an erection sufficient for intercourse.
If this does not occur, consulting a physician is necessary to rule out any underlying health conditions, such as an enlarged prostate or diabetes. ED is often thought to be a marker of poor blood flow to organs. Hence, every person with ED must be screened for cardiovascular fitness as well.
6 Ways to Treat Erectile Dysfunction
Treatment of erectile dysfunction depends on the underlying cause of the condition. For fastest results, it’s best to consult a doctor to get appropriate treatment recommendations, which may include:
1. Lifestyle changes
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Staying physically active (running, walking, stretching)
- Quitting smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and any drug abuse
- Stress management through meditation, sports, music, or yoga
- Getting adequate sleep and rest
If stress, anxiety, or other emotional issues are causing the condition, counseling may help. Some men experience erectile dysfunction because of past experiences that cause a lack of self-esteem, fear, or guilt, and counseling can help you overcome those negative feelings. Couple counseling can also help improve mutual understanding and acceptance in a relationship, allowing you to feel more comfortable during intimacy.
If counseling alone does not help treat the psychological issue, medications through a qualified psychiatrist may be prescribed.
Medications may include drugs to manage underlying health conditions such as diabetes, high blood cholesterol, or kidney diseases in addition to medications that specifically target erectile dysfunction.
Common medications used for erectile dysfunction are:
- Alprostadil (injectable drug or a suppository)
Since these medications can interfere with other medications, inform your doctor if you are taking medications for other ailments.
If your ED is caused by low levels of testosterone, your doctor may prescribe testosterone supplementation. If certain medications are causing your erectile dysfunction, your doctor may stop or lower dosages or prescribe an alternative medication. Do not change or stop taking medications without consulting your doctor.
4. Vacuum constriction devices
A vacuum constriction device (VCD) or penis pump can help men get an erection by pulling blood into the penis. The device is made up of three main parts:
- Plastic tube ( worn around the penis)
- Pump (draws air out of the tube to create a vacuum)
- Elastic ring (can be moved from the end of the tube to the base of the penis when the tube is removed)
Surgical treatment mainly consists of penile implants or surgeries to repair damaged blood vessels (revascularization surgery).
6. Alternative therapy
While there are several alternative therapies that may help treat erectile dysfunction, there isn’t enough scientific data to prove their efficacy. Despite claims of being all natural or free of side effects, not every natural remedy or supplement is safe. So talk with your doctor before trying alternative remedies.
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Harvard Health Publishing. 5 Natural Ways to Overcome Erectile Dysfunction July 07, 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/5-natural-ways-to-overcome-erectile-dysfunction