What are the Symptoms and Causes of Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

Erectile dysfunction is a medical term that refers to the inability of a man to achieve or maintain an erection to facilitate the act of sex.

It is important to note that, while one may experience difficulty gaining or maintaining an erection once in a while, based on specific factors; it may not always be a cause for alarm. Erectile dysfunction is typically not diagnosed until this problem becomes a constant and recurring issue.

Many men have had some experience with ED. Statistics show that approximately 40% of men aged above 39 and 70% of men aged 70 and above will be affected by erectile dysfunction. Older men have been shown to exhibit a higher prevalence of erectile dysfunction, and the symptoms that go with it than those that are younger.1

Symptoms of Erectile Dysfunction

You may have erectile dysfunction if you notice such symptoms as:

  • Having less interest in sex.
  • Having trouble getting an erection.
  • If you do get an erection, then you find that you are unable to sustain throughout the entire sexual encounter.

Observing that these symptoms present themselves often, thus impeding your ability to perform sexually will be an indicator that an underlying issue is in play. It is at this point where you are advised to seek medical attention; when you notice that your symptoms are chronic. Your doctor is the best resource for a confirmed diagnosis.

How does erectile dysfunction come about? What are its causes?

Problems with ED will typically have their root causes in three major bodily systems. These systems, the hormones, blood flow, and nerves, tend to control the most basic of penile functions and the way that they operate.2 Abnormalities that present themselves within any of these systems will, in turn, aggravate and enhance the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction can stem from several causes; all of which would affect the normal functioning of your body. These causes can be classified into two major categories. They are:

  • Physical or organic causes.
  • Psychological causes.

Physical Causes

The physical causes of erectile dysfunction are often presented in other medical concerns which would alter the normal working conditions of the body. These causes include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • High cholesterol
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Heart disease
  • Hypogonadism- a condition in which the testes produce insufficient hormones- and other hormonal disorders
  • Liver failure
  • Injury to the tissue in the penis, otherwise known as penile fractures
  • Radiation treatment that is concentrated around the pelvic area
  • Smoking
  • Excessive intake of alcohol
  • Drug use and abuse
  • Peyronie’s disease- where scar tissue develops in the penis3

In addition to the ailments named above, erectile dysfunction can also come about from medications used to treat these diseases or other illnesses. Some of these medications are listed below. If this is the case, then it is recommended that you proceed with taking or ceasing the course of a prescription-only on your doctor’s advice.

Drugs used in the treatment of cancer:

  • Painkillers that contain opioids.
  • Antidepressants
  • High blood pressure medication
  • Medication meant to aid in the effects of anxiety
  • Heart medications
  • Medicine used in the treatment of the prostate
  • A selection of sleeping pills.

These physical causes make up the bulk of reasons as to why men may develop erectile dysfunction. Although these effects can sometimes be countered with time and a course of treatment, several men will be left with a lasting condition.

Psychological Causes

Other than the physical concerns that may bring about erectile dysfunction, other, less visible causes can have just as much impact. Psychological causes of ED are taken to be the root cause when any physical issue is absent. Some of these causes include:

  • High levels of anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Relationship problems
  • Mental health conditions

In some instances, these psychological causes may result in the complete inability of a man to get an erection right from the start. In this case, the erectile dysfunction is labeled as a primary dysfunction. Conversely, psychological causes of ED are often secondary causes and will affect a physical or organic cause has arisen.2

One significant consensus is that the physical and psychological causes of erectile dysfunction do not always have an individual impact. Sometimes, the ED can be a result of a combination of reasons, both internal and external.4For example; a man with heart disease or cancer may find that he is anxious about these physical ailments. The anxiety may then combine with the medical issues to affect his ability to get or maintain an erection whenever he is in a sexual setting.

While erectile dysfunction is still taken as a cause for embarrassment, numerous strides have been made in the study and demystification of this disorder. Men are encouraged to see their doctors whenever a concern crops up that they suspect to do with erectile dysfunction.

You should not fear to be candid and forthcoming with your primary care physician or with a specialist to whom you have been referred. The more information you can provide, and the clearer the explanation of your symptoms, the easier it will be to determine a diagnosis and establish a proper treatment plan.

Erectile dysfunction can be managed with proper guidance from your doctor and special care on your part. There are medications widely available that are prescribed to men to help counter the symptoms of ED. These have proven to be very useful in numerous instances.

Speak with your doctor to seek medical advice about all the options available to you based on the underlying causes of your condition. Many treatment options would suit a wide range of patient preferences so that only the best methods are applied to you.

Sources:

  1. Wood, H., & Lakin, M. (2018, June). Erectile Dysfunction. Retrieved June 1n.d., from http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/erectile-dysfunction/
  2. MacGill, M. (2017, December). Erectile dysfunction: Treatments and causes. Retrieved June 10, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/5702#treatment
  3. (2020, January 14). Erectile Dysfunction Experts: How Leading Experts Define ED. Retrieved June 10, 2020, from https://mhc.com.au/blog/what-is-ed/
  4. Erectile dysfunction. (2020, March 27). Retrieved June 10, 2n.d., from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes/syc-20355776

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