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What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Wednesday 8 December 2021
Erectile Dysfunction
4 minute(s) read

Table of Contents


I. What is Erectile Dysfunction?

II. How Common is Erectile Dysfunction?

III. Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms

IV. What causes ED?

V. Diagnosing ED

VI. Treatment Options


What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is characterized by the repeated failure of achieving or maintaining an erection for sexual intercourse. Erectile dysfunction may be caused by physical damage to the sexual organ, underlying health conditions, and psychological factors. If your condition is reversible, lifestyle and dietary changes can improve your symptoms. If you have a prescription, you can also buy generic Cialis or Viagra online.

How Common is Erectile Dysfunction? 

Millions of men worldwide are affected by erectile dysfunction; experts estimate that 30 million men are affected by ED in the United States. [1] Although ED is more common in older men, erectile dysfunction is not a normal part of aging.

If you are experiencing symptoms of ED, such as trouble getting an erection or reduced sexual desire, it is important to speak to your doctor. A proper diagnosis can help you address any underlying condition. Read on to learn more about the symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options for erectile dysfunction.

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Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms

You may not have erectile dysfunction if you have erection troubles occasionally. If you regularly experience trouble maintaining an erection and experience a reduced interest in sexual intercourse, speak with your doctor, especially if these symptoms persist for more than three months.

Premature or delayed ejaculation may not indicate ED, but these symptoms can affect your sexual health later on. Talk to your healthcare provider about any symptoms that interfere with your sex life.

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

As mentioned above, age is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction, but it is not the only factor. You are more likely to have ED if you smoke, abuse alcohol, or have an underlying disease. Each risk factor contributes to erectile dysfunction differently.

You may wonder, how does smoking cause ED? Smoking damages and narrows the blood vessels in the penis, which restricts blood flow and worsens symptoms. Another risk factor for ED is alcohol. Alcohol is a mild vasodilator, so too much alcohol in your body can drop your blood pressure, which inhibits erections. Other common risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression, anxiety, and stress
  • Prostate problems
  • Renal failure
  • Certain drugs, such as anti-anxiety pills, anti-depressants, glaucoma eye drops, and agents used in cancer chemotherapy

You may also experience ED if you have hormone abnormalities. Common hormone-related causes of erectile dysfunction include: 

  • Increased prolactin
  • Excess or insufficient thyroid hormone
  • Low testosterone
  • Steroid abuse

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Erectile Dysfunction Diagnosis

The process of diagnosing erectile dysfunction consists of several steps. When you visit your doctor’s office for a diagnosis, your doctor will likely ask you for your medical and sexual history. This step aims to reveal any known health conditions that may help narrow down the cause of your symptoms. After discussing your health history, your doctor will conduct a physical examination to look for problems with the nervous and circulatory systems, as well as any unusual physical characteristics.

Because underlying diseases cause most cases of ED, your doctor may order several laboratory tests to measure your blood count, urine, and liver enzymes. Blood and urine tests can help your doctor understand if you are affected by diabetes, low testosterone, or other conditions.

Finally, your doctor will conduct a psychological examination (usually a questionnaire) to determine if any mental disorders affect your sexual function. In some cases, your doctor may request an interview with your sexual partner as well.

Erectile Dysfunction Treatment

After a proper diagnosis, your doctor will create your treatment plan based on your overall health, tolerance for medical treatments, and the severity of your symptoms. If the diagnosis has revealed any underlying conditions, your doctor will likely focus your treatment efforts to find the root cause.

If the extent of your erectile dysfunction is not severe, your doctor may refer you to a dietician to improve your symptoms through lifestyle changes. Your doctor may also recommend regular physical activity to improve your vascular health and blood circulation.

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For more severe symptoms, your physician may prescribe a PDE-5 inhibitor like Viagra or Cialis. Drugs in this class improve erection strength by promoting blood flow and preventing certain enzymes from stopping an erection.

If you are allergic or otherwise not suitable for ED medications, your doctor may consider alternative treatments or surgery. Alternative treatments may include acupuncture, nutritional supplements, or the use of a penis pump. Surgical options are usually considered if other options are unsuccessful.

If your doctor determines that your ED symptoms result from a mental health disorder like depression or anxiety, you may be referred to a psychiatrist. A counselor can equip you with anxiety-reducing techniques and ways to improve intimacy with your partner. Although erectile dysfunction is a common condition, a proper diagnosis can quickly get you on an effective treatment plan to improve your symptoms.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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