Also known as impotence, erectile dysfunction is the inability of the male to attain or sustain an erection of the penis sufficient enough for sexual intercourse.
The intensity of this disease can range from:
* Infrequent inability to achieve an erection.
* Inability to maintain an 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 sexual arousal. This can be induced either by physical contact to the penis shaft or by 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, resulting in increased blood flow.
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Subsequently, the increased blood flow in the blood vessels of the penis results in an erection. Any change or hampering effect to this process can result in erectile dysfunction. Thus, erectile dysfunction causes can be physiological or psychological. The psychological causes can be increased stress, depression, and fatigue.
The physiological causes include several 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 in 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 to 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.
Erectile dysfunction diagnosis can be done in many ways. 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 analyzed.
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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 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.
Other erectile dysfunction 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 in 1998. The oral tablets enhance the effect of nitric oxide, which helps 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. Another erectile dysfunction treatment is surgery. It can be used to plant rods inside the penis to keep it erect. Surgery can also be used to repair the arteries for proper blood flow or block veins to reduce blood outflow.
Research is being carried out at various levels to improve such treatments and to reduce their side effects in the attempt to help men around the globe to fight against erectile dysfunction.