A brief overview
Previously known as impotence, erectile dysfunction is the inability of the male to attain or sustain erection of the penis sufficient for sexual intercourse. The intensity of this
disease can range from:
* Infrequent inability to achieve an erection.
* Inability to maintain erection during intercourse.
* Complete inability to get an erection at any time.
Erectile dysfunction is a very common disease. It has been estimated that one in every ten men has experienced or will experience this disease at some point in life. Recent surveys also show that around fifteen to thirty million men in the United States of America are currently facing this issue.
Before going into the causes, a sufficient understanding of how the male achieves erection is necessary. The first step is that of the sexual arousal. This can be induced either by physical contact to the penis shaft or by a psychological arousal by words or thoughts, feelings or even imagination. This is followed by a nerve impulse by which the brain sends a signal to the nervous system which results in increased blood flow.
Subsequently, the increased blood flow in the blood vessels of the penis results in erection. Any change or hampering effect to this process can result in erectile dysfunction. Thus the cause of this disease can be physiological or psychological. The psychological causes can be increased stress, depression and fatigue.
The physiological causes include a number of possibilities. A damaged nervous system with spinal cord and brain injuries can be one of the reasons. A hormonal imbalance may result in low levels of testosterone. Cardiovascular issues combined with arterial disorders may result in a poor flow of blood to the penile shaft. Patients, sufferings from diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure can suffer from erectile dysfunction.
The disease can also result as a ramification of medication such as anti-depressants, sleeping pills, tranquilizers. Medicine used to combat high blood pressure can result in an interference with the nervous system leading in a poor blood supply to the penis.
An unhealthy lifestyle can also lead to erectile dysfunction. Alcohol abusers, smokers, drug addicts have commonly complained about erectile dysfunction.
There are a number of ways by which the disease can be diagnosed. The patient’s medical and sexual history can provide important information. A physical inspection of the penis can be done. Its responsiveness to the physical touch can be analysed.
Other tests include procedures to check the sensitivity (Penile biothesiometry), to check whether the nervous system is still intact (Penile nerves function) and to evaluate whether a proper blood flow is still being maintained in the penile shaft (Duplex ultrasound).
The treatment is obviously related to the cause of the disease. A healthy lifestyle is always encouraged by the health experts. Quitting smoking, moderating alcohol intake, eating nutritious food is always a good start no matter what the problem may be.
For the psychological causes, psychotherapy is a good option. Well planned sessions are used to reduce anxiety levels; moderate use of anti- depressants is encouraged. The sex partner’s involvement is essential for intimacy and arousal.
The other treatments more often than not are temporary in nature. They help to carry out the intercourse session properly and the desired effect will last only that long. Oral drugs have been very popular since the introduction of Viagra since 1998. The oral tablets enhance the effect of nitric oxide which helps to relax the penile muscles increasing the blood flow. These drugs can also be used in the form of injections.
Vacuum constrictors can also be used to increase the blood flow in the penis. Creams, applied directly to the penis are also helpful. Surgery is another option. It can be used to plant rods inside the penis to keep it erect. Surgery can also be used to repairs the arteries for proper blood flow or to block veins to reduce blood outflow.
Research is being carried out at various levels to improve such treatments and to reduce their side-affects in the attempt to help men around the globe to retain their ‘masculinity’.