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What is Erectile Dysfunction?
You are definitely not alone if you suffer from erection problems. Recent estimates show that 1 in 10 men have erection problems
- This is thought to be the equivalent of 150 million men worldwide
- 30 million in the USA
- 2.3 million in the UK
- 1 million in Australia
- All of us have a sexual drive that rises and falls at different times in our lives. Sexual arousal depends on a number of complex interwoven factors. This includes lifestyle, psychological, lack of desire, vascular, neural, endocrine/ hormonal, and even social conditioning - all play a part in the path to sexual arousal.
Erectile dysfunction (or ED)
Erectile dysfunction (or ED) is the medical term for having problems achieving or maintaining an erection. ED is usually only diagnosed, however, if the problem occurs repeatedly. Men are often embarrassed to discuss problems they may have, which creates a "culture of silence" around male health issues
So in reality the figures for male impotence could be much higher - especially if men who occasionally have problems are included. Problems can be either physiological or psychological and often become intertwined the longer the issue continues. This problem often impacts on a man (and his partner's) sex life.
However, sexual intimacy is usually more than just the giving and receiving of pleasure but is an important part of human emotional and mental interaction, as well as communication. So, unsurprisingly erection problems can also lead to acute problems in relationships and a person's self-esteem. It also leads to avoidance of sex and creates communication barriers.
Many men unable to sustain an erection report feeling inadequate or ashamed, increased anxiety, loss of confidence and tension within their relationships.
A man gets an erection when blood engorges the spongy tissues of the penis and stops from flowing back out again.
Erectile dysfunction or impotence is usually a symptom of another physiological or psychological problem. But it is not necessarily an inevitable part of getting older (although it is true that the conditions that can cause ED become more prevalent as we age).
Serious health (metabolic) problems
Reduced blood flow
Interference by medication, alcohol and other drugs
- Blood pressure
Interference with nerve function
(Source: Andrology Australia website)
Always seek the services of a qualified medical practitioner if you are concerned about your health.
The Erectile Dysfunction Risk
The majority of men occasionally experience erectile problems - which is normal! But when it becomes something of a problem and is persistent it can affect men in all areas of their lives, it can affect their self-image, sex life, relationship and "anxiety performance” can just make the problem worse. If you cannot maintain an erection that is firm enough for intercourse, or you have an orgasm before or immediately after entering your partner (premature ejaculation), you may feel frustrated and believe you are not pleasing your partner. Fortunately, many of the physical and psychological factors that cause erection problems respond to treatment, so it is important that you visit you doctor.
Erectile Dysfunction and Medical Conditions:
Certain diseases, particularly cardio-vascular, can increase the risk of erectile dysfunction symptoms. Such as High cholesterol (Hypercholesterolemia) or low HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which affect the composition of the blood can cause erectile problems. High blood pressure (Hypertension), around 50% of men with this condition areaffected. Or Diabetes (Diabetes mellitus type 1 or type 2) or other blood vessel diseases/ conditions are often affected. Diseases such as MS (Multiple sclerosis), Stroke and Parkinson’s disease are diseases which affect the nervous system. At the most basic level, the function of the nervous system is to send signals from one cell to other, or from one part of the body to other and damage to it can play a big role in the causes of erectile dysfunction.
Erectile Dysfunction and Age
Men are more at risk of developing erectile dysfunction as they get older, in other words age plays a significant role in the possibility of developing condition – but that doesn’t mean that younger men aren’t at risk. Men in their forties have around 15% chance of developing a mild form erectile dysfunction and that chance doubles to 30% in men in their seventy’s. About 50% of men between the ages of forty and seventy have been affected by erection problem at some point. As far as severe erectile function is concerned, 5 out of 100 men in their forties and in their seventy’s this number goes up to 15 out of every 100.
There are other reasons, though, why some men develop erectile dysfunction. Procedures such as surgery which involve the prostate, urethra, bladder or rectum can cause injury to the nerves that involve reaching and maintaining an erection. Although a vasectomy does not normally cause erection problems, the pain after surgery can affect sexual performance for a while (especially if he is or wasn’t completely happy with his decision to have a vasectomy) and it can affect him psychologically. Other conditions include thyroid problems and low hormone levels (hypogonadism), which are needed for the development and function of the sex organs, leading to testosterone levels to be considerably lower. Injuries to the spinal cord or even treatment such as radiation in the pelvic area. Medications and other substances which put men at greater risk of erectile dysfunction are:
* Some medication treatments for depression and/or high blood pressure.
* Long term recreational drug and/or alcohol abuse.
Finally psychological factors. Men who suffer from anxiety, stress, depression relationship problems or who have recently had a big change in their life (such as birth of a child, death of a partner or relative, marriage, divorce, job change or even moving house!) are also at risk of erectile dysfunction. Basically any activities which constrict the blood flow to the penis such as regular long distance cycling on hard or narrow saddles certainly put men at a higher risk of developing erection problems. Some experts, though, have questioned wether or not this is fact or just a myth!?!
Is it possible to reduce your risk of erectile dysfunction?
The simple answer is YES. You might be able avoid Sexual Problems associated with anxiety and stress by taking a more relaxed view of making love. If you have any concerns about it the best thing you can do is to talk to your partner. If you talk about your love making, it could certainly reduce your stress and anxiety levels and you may become more relaxed - i.e. ‘you’re both in the same boat’.
Erections may become more difficult to get and maintain with age, but foreplay at the right time and place can really increase your ability to have an erection – that is regardless of your age.
Other things which you can do to reduce your risk of erectile dysfunction include:
* Stop smoking – it’s bad for your circulation.
* Avoid alcohol and drugs.
* Try and keep your cholesterol levels down to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
* If you have high blood pressure - get it treated!
* If you are diabetic make sure you keep your blood sugar level stable.
* Exercise regularly – a health heart is essential!
* If you are very overweight (especially if you’re obese) – go on a diet!?!
* And (most likely one of the more important points) reduce your stress level.
Cutting stress out of lovemaking is vital, so work on that.