An Approach to Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a sexual disorder characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual activity in humans. A penile erection is the hydraulic effect of blood entering and being retained in sponge-like bodies within the penis. The process is most often initiated as a result of sexual arousal, when signals are transmitted from the brain to nerves in the penis.
ED can have psychological consequences as it can be tied to relationship difficulties and self-image. The problem can cause significant distress for a man. A number of strategies can be used to treat erectile dysfunction, depending on the underlying causes. These include:
- Psychosexual counselling
- Vacuum devices
- Medications (oral, intracavernosal or intraurethral)
- Penile implants
Psychological causes of ED are often related to performance anxiety. This can lead to a vicious cycle as anxiety about maintaining an erection can actually cause ED. In some cases, a man may experience ED due to a physiological problem. These causes are most often related to an imbalance in hormones or blood flow.
A number of different medications can be used to treat ED. These include:
- Oral medications such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra)
- Intracavernosal injections of alprostadil (Caverject, Edex)
- Intraurethral pellets of alprostadil (Muse)
- Hormone replacement therapy, if ED is due to low levels of testosterone
In some cases, a man may not be able to take oral medications or may not respond to oral medications. In these cases, surgical treatment may be an option. This typically involves the placement of a penile implant, which is a device that allows the man to have an erection by itself.
Erectile dysfunction is a common problem, affecting a significant number of men. It can have psychological and physical causes, and can be treated with a variety of methods. If you are experiencing ED, talk to your doctor about the best treatment option for you.