What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual performance. ED can be a total inability to achieve an erection, an inconsistent ability to do so or a tendency to sustain brief erections only.

 The word “impotence” is sometimes incorrectly used to describe ED. While the two are sometimes related, impotence is a non-specific, non-medical term.

 Erectile Dysfunction can be either primary or secondary. Primary ED means, that you have experienced this condition since you started your sexual life. Secondary ED means you have had no problems with erectile functioning until now.

 While ED impacts your physical and psychosocial well being and may alter intimate relationships you are not alone and ED is more likely to occur as men get older. Statistics show that 4% of men in their 50s, 17% of men in their 60s and nearly half of men over 75 experience a total inability to achieve an erection. However, ED is not an inevitable part of ageing and is treatable at any age.


How does an erection occur?

An erection begins with sensory or mental stimulation, or both. Essentially, an erection is an event to do with blood. It is the balance between blood flowing into your penis through arteries and blood flowing out of your penis through your veins.



How is ED caused and what are the risk factors?

ED usually has a physical cause, such as disease, injury, or as a side effect from drugs. Any disorder that causes injury to the nerves or impairs blood flow to the penis has the potential to cause ED.

 In order for an erection to occur it requires a precise sequence of events. ED can occur when any of these events are disrupted. This sequence of events includes nerve impulses in the brain, spinal column and the area around the penis. It also includes response in muscles, fibrous tissues and veins and arteries in and near the corpora cavernosa in the penis.

 Damage to nerves, arteries, smooth muscles and fibrous tissue, often as a result of disease, is the most common cause of ED. Disease accounts for the majority of ED cases, Prior to starting any form of ED treatment it is important to be thoroughly evaluated by your doctor for any other health issues. This is particularly significant when it comes to the medical risk conditions listed below.


Medical conditions which increase risk of ED

Psychological disorders – Depression, performance anxiety or stress

Vascular disorders – Hardening of arteries, heart disease and disease of the blood vessels

Neurological – Stroke, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, pelvic trauma or prostate surgery

Endocrine – Low testosterone

Chronic illness – High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, high blood sugar, heart disease, chronic kidney failure or heart failure

Metabolic Syndrome

A group of conditions e.g. increased blood pressure, high blood sugar level, excess body fat and abnormal cholesterol levels. These conditions occur together and may increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Surgery, especially radical prostate and bladder surgery for cancer, can injure nerves and arteries near the penis and cause ED. Injury to the penis, spinal cord, prostate, bladder and pelvis can harm the nerves, smooth muscles, arteries and fibrous tissues of the corpora cavernosa. This can also cause ED. In addition: ED can be a side affect of many common medicines such as blood pressure drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants, tranquilizers, appetite suppressants, and cimetidine (an ulcer drug)

Hormonal abnormalities, such as low levels of testosterone, are a less frequent cause of ED.


Psychological factors involved in ED

  • Depression and schizophrenia
  • Sexual performance anxiety
  • Problems with a relationship
  • Sexual abuse during earlier years
  • Stress related to work or finances

Psychological factors can negatively effect nerves in the brain that send signals down through nerves in the spinal column and to the penis. The abnormal nerve signals prevent the muscles along the penis from relaxing. In so doing, blood flow through the arteries that fill and expand the penis is blocked and the penis remains flaccid.


What can you do to reduce risk?

Lifestyle choices that contribute to heart disease and vascular problems increase the risk of ED. Smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, being overweight, and lack of physical activity are also possible causes of ED. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce the chances of a recurrence of ED. Most doctors suggest less invasive treatments and will only consider more invasive treatments such as surgery if there are no other options.


Treatment Options

There are various effective treatment options available, oral and otherwise and all have their advantages and disadvantages.

Prior to starting a treatment program consider how it will fit in with your lifestyle and how it will impact on your relationship with your sexual partner. Your doctor will be able to assist you with prescription medication and will monitor your health while taking these.

You also have the option of looking for a natural products

Please Note: This is an information guide only and should not be used for diagnosis purposes. For more information on erectile dysfunction, its diagnosis and treatment speak to your healthcare provider.