Urologists define erectile dysfunction (ED) as the inability to achieve and maintain an erection firm enough for satisfactory sex. ED is the biggest sex concern among men, with data showing there have been 18 million reported cases in the United States. While it is normal to experience ED every once in a while, you should seek ED treatment from our health professionals at Physician Artistry in Sterling, VA, if episodes of ED last more than three months.
Causes of ED
Aging comes with additional challenges. The older we get, the more vulnerable we become to certain health conditions. For example, erection dysfunction is more frequent or worse in older men.
Data shows that by the time they hit 40, around 12% of men will have experienced at least one episode of ED. The number keeps increasing with every decade of life. Over half of men aged 70 and above show some signs of ED.
Diabetes is a common chronic disease that affects around half a billion people all over the world. There are two types of diabetes; Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when there is not enough insulin in the body. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body fails to use insulin effectively.
Besides causing other complications, diabetes increases the risk of developing erectile dysfunction in men. About 50% of men who have diabetes also show some signs of ED.
Heart Disease and High Cholesterol
Heart disease is the biggest killer in the United States. High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels increase your risk of developing erection problems. According to urologists, whatever is good for your heart is also good for your sexual health.
There is a special connection between your heart and your erection. A recent medical study found that healthy men who suddenly develop ED are likely to be diagnosed with heart disease within five years. Therefore, if your overall health is fine, but you have been experiencing signs of ED, you should see a heart doctor.
Prostate Inflammation and Prostate Cancer
The prostate plays a crucial role in the production of one of the components in semen. Health problems that affect the prostate are also likely to affect your erection. Although benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) does not directly cause erection problems, the medications used to treat the condition are known to affect an erection.
Besides interfering with your ability to achieve and maintain an erection, prostate cancer and prostate inflammation can also turn the delightful experience of ejaculation into a painful feeling.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Some sexually transmitted infections, such as viral hepatitis, chlamydia, or gonorrhea, can cause infections in the prostate gland. As we have mentioned above, an unhealthy prostate is bad for your sexual health.
For you to regain your sexual health and overall wellbeing, a doctor must treat the infection in your prostate and then treat or manage the STI responsible for the infection. It is important to note that untreated STIs and infections in the prostate gland can lead to severe or permanent damage to your reproductive system.
Low Testosterone (Low T)
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone that plays a vital role in the development of male reproductive tissues and secondary sexual characteristics.
One in four men has lower-than-normal levels of testosterone. Low testosterone can affect your overall health and wellbeing extensively.
Low T can cause hair loss, low sex drive, reduced bone mass, insomnia, memory loss, reduced muscle mass, and erection dysfunction. To address ED issues caused by Low T, a doctor will likely recommend testosterone replacement therapy to restore your testosterone levels.
Mental Health Issues
The brain is widely considered as the most powerful sex organ. The brain is an integral part of sexual health. It plays a crucial role in achieving and maintaining a firm erection. The brain makes nerve connections and releases hormones that enable a firm erection.
Mental disorders and emotional issues can prevent the brain from playing these roles. Mental disorders and emotional problems that can cause erectile dysfunction include:
- Low self-esteem
- Worry about sex performance
- Stress from social, cultural, or religious conflicts
- Relationship conflicts
- Stress at home or work
Unhealthy weight is the leading cause of some of the biggest killer diseases in the United States. An unhealthy weight causes heart disease and some types of cancer. It also causes high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels.
Those who are overweight or obese might experience erection dysfunction because their bodies turn testosterone into estrogen. This lowers their testosterone levels, affecting their sexual and overall health.
Fewer products can adversely affect your health and wellbeing more than tobacco. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco causes eight million deaths every year. A million of those die from second-hand smoke.
Before it kills you, continued tobacco use will cause havoc in your life. Heavy tobacco use interferes with the flow of blood in your body. It prevents enough blood from reaching your penis, making it difficult for you to achieve and maintain a firm erection.
Some medications are known to cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction. These include:
- Blood pressure medications
- Acid reflux medications
- Opioid pain medications
These are just some of the most common medications that affect erections. There are more medications that have a similar effect. When you visit a sexual health expert, they will ask you about any medications you are taking. This information is crucial in determining the cause of ED.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatment: What to Expect
A physical exam gives the doctor a clear picture of your overall health. The doctor will examine your testicles and penis to check for any irregularities that might cause erectile dysfunction. For older patients and those exposed to other risk factors, the physical exam might cover other parts of your body, including your heart and blood system.
The doctor might also suggest a rectal exam to check your prostate if your family has a history of prostate problems. However, the majority of men start ED treatment without undergoing all of these tests.
A blood test and a urine sample allow the doctor to check for any health issues associated with erectile dysfunction.
Advanced Erectile Dysfunction Tests
Sometimes the doctor might order specialized tests to provide the best treatment or to re-assess the patient after the first treatment option fails to deliver the desired results. Advance tests include:
- Blood work to monitor testosterone and other male hormones
- Blood work to check for diabetes
- Pelvic x-rays for men with a history of trauma or cancer
- Ultrasonography to monitor blood flow
- Nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) to monitor sleep erection
ED Treatments Options
The most basic treatment for ED involves safeguarding your heart and vascular health. Depending on the cause of your ED, the doctor might recommend specific lifestyle changes to improve your sex life. Some of the changes that you might be required to make include avoiding smoking, adopting a healthier diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and quitting alcohol and other drugs.
Additionally, you will be required to treat any mental disorders and resolve any emotional issues you might have. These include anxiety, depression, relationship conflicts, and life stressors.
Also known as GainsWave, shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment option for ED that uses energy from acoustic waves to improve blood flow in the penis.
This simple, quick, and pain-free treatment promotes the growth and development of new blood vessels in different areas of the penis, improving blood flow. The overall rejuvenation of erectile tissue allows you to get and maintain firm erections.
The Priapus Shot
Also known as the P-shot, the Priapus Shot offers relief to men suffering from ED caused by several factors, including Peyronie’s disease, an enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, diabetes, certain medications, and surgery.
The P-shot uses Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy, one of the major types of regenerative medicine. The doctor draws a small amount of your blood and puts it in a centrifuge to extract growth factors. These are then injected into areas of the penis, boosting your erection. The P-shot is also an effective non-surgical male enhancement option.
Oral Drugs (PDE5 inhibitors)
There are 4 oral drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ED. These PDE type-5 inhibitors improve blood flow to the penis. They include:
- Viagra® (sildenafil citrate)
- Cialis® (tadalafil)
- Stendra® (avanafil)
- Levitra® (vardenafil HCl)
Testosterone replacement therapy is an ideal treatment option for men who experience ED as a result of low testosterone levels.
Vacuum Erection Device (VED)
A VED is a safe and effective alternative to invasive or pharmaceutical treatments. An acrylic cylinder is slipped over the penis to make a seal with the skin of the body. A pump on the other end of the cylinder creates a low-pressure vacuum around the erectile tissue, producing an erection. A support ring is used to trap the blood in the penis, giving you a firm erection for up to 30 minutes.
Intra-Urethral Suppository (MUSE)
MUSE relaxes the muscles and opens up blood vessels in the penis that are responsible for an erection. It offers relief to men with ED that results from:
- Side effects of other ED medications
- Nerve damage
- Prostate surgery
- Cardiovascular disease
Intracavernosal (ICI) and Urethra (IU) Therapies
During this effective ED treatment, a combination of FDA-approved vasodilators is administered through an intracavernosal injection (ICI) or the urethra (IU therapy). This treatment option works where PDE type-5 inhibitors fail. It is ideal for treating ED caused by high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions.
Surgical ED treatments are often considered as the last resort for aging men who are unsatisfied with the results delivered by other treatment options. During surgery, penile prostheses are inserted in the penis. Since these implants are inside the body, they allow you and your partner to enjoy uninterrupted and spontaneous intimate moments.
When Should I Expect Results?
Results of ED treatment vary from person to another. Some work almost instantly, while others take a little time. Others work gradually over several weeks. Those that take longer to work often deliver long-term results.
We Can Help
According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, sex is a physiological need, belonging in the same category as food and housing. ED can interfere with your ability to fulfill your sexual needs. This can lower the quality of your life and affect your overall wellbeing. Fortunately, there are several treatment options for ED. For safe and effective ED treatment, contact Physician Artistry in Sterling, VA!