Erectile dysfunction, also referred to as impotence or ED, is characterized by the inability to achieve or sustain a penile erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. While periodic trouble maintaining an erection is not uncommon, suffering from frequent erectile issues can cause stress and relationship problems. If you think you might be impotent, you are not alone. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, nearly 30 million men in the United States have trouble keeping or developing an erection.
The process involved in developing an erection is complex and involves a man’s hormones, nerves, muscles, blood vessels and brain. Because emotions are involved as well, stress and other psychological issues can also contribute to erectile dysfunction. In most cases, medical testing reveals that the impotence is caused by an underlying physical issue, reports the Mayo Clinic. Common causes include high blood pressure, clogged blood vessels, obesity, low testosterone and high cholesterol. The psychological causes of erectile dysfunction are often depression, anxiety or general stress.
While many of the causes of erectile dysfunction are out of one’s control, several risk factors can be managed and potentially eliminated. For example, tobacco users experience a restriction of blood flow to the veins and arteries that can be a contributing factor to impotence. The Mayo Clinic reports that simply being overweight can also cause erectile dysfunction. An overweight man who smokes is likely to see an improvement in his penile health simply by losing weight and quitting smoking without any need for medical intervention.
Those who do require medical intervention will undergo a series of tests to determine the cause of ED. A physician will begin with a physical exam of the penis and testicles to check for nerve damage, followed by blood and urine tests to look for indicators of low testosterone, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. An ultrasound may be performed to determine if the blood flow to the penis is hindered in any way. In addition, a doctor may test to see if the man achieves erections overnight during sleep. If he does, this indicates that the cause of impotence is most likely caused by a psychological issue rather than a physical condition. Screening for depression, anxiety and other psychological issues is often performed as well.
The treatment for erectile dysfunction is determined by the cause of the problem. Impotence caused by underlying psychological issues is generally treated with counseling, often in conjunction with the man’s spouse. Medication such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra may be prescribed as well. In cases where medication does not improve the problem, a doctor might suggest using a penis pump, considering a penile implant or undergoing blood vessel surgery.
You can help prevent the likelihood of developing erectile dysfunction by maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, drugs and alcohol, exercising regularly and improving communication with your partner. If you do notice signs of impotence, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your physician to determine the underlying cause of the problem and begin a treatment plan.