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What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (impotence) is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex. Trouble in getting an erection at times is not a cause of concern. However, prolonged erectile dysfunction can lead to stress and even depression which can hamper an individual's confidence and relationship. It can also be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs treatment and a risk factor for heart disease.
Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction symptoms might include persistent:
- Trouble getting an erection
- Trouble keeping an erection
- Reduced sexual desire
Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction
Male sexual arousal is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction can result from a problem with any of these. Likewise, stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction.
Sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues causes erectile dysfunction. For instance, a minor physical condition that slows your sexual response might cause anxiety and can lead to the problem in maintaining an erection. The resulting anxiety can lead to or worsen erectile dysfunction.
Physical causes of erectile dysfunction
In many cases, erectile dysfunction is caused by something physical. Common causes include:
- Heart disease
- Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome — a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist and high cholesterol
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Certain prescription medications
- Tobacco use
- Peyronie's disease — development of scar tissue inside the penis
- Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse
- Sleep disorders
- Treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate
- Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord
Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction
The brain plays a key role in triggering the series of physical events that cause an erection, starting with feelings of sexual excitement. A number of things can interfere with sexual feelings and cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. These include:
- Depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions
- Relationship problems due to stress, poor communication or other concerns
Prevention Of Erectile Dysfunction
The best way to prevent erectile dysfunction is to make healthy lifestyle choices and to manage any existing health conditions. For example:
- Work with your doctor to manage diabetes, heart disease or other chronic health conditions.
- See your doctor for regular checkups and medical screening tests.
- Stop smoking, limit or avoid alcohol, and don't use illegal drugs.
- Exercise regularly.
- Take steps to reduce stress.
- Get help for anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns.
Myth: ED is a normal part of growing older and men have to learn to live with it.
Fact: Although ED is more common among older men, it doesn't mean it's something you have to live with. Older men need more stimulations than younger men to get aroused and it is a usual and a natural process. However, a lot of men are able to develop easy erection in their older years and there is no reason that you can't be one of them.
Myth: Erectile dysfunction doesn't affect younger men.
Fact: Although ED is more common in men over 75, guys of any age can have it.
Myth: ED may be upsetting, but there's nothing dangerous about it.
Fact: Although ED itself isn't dangerous, it can be an early warning sign of an underlying health condition, such as diabetes or heart problems.