Most men will experience erectile dysfunction at some point in their lives, it is completely normal. Yet it can be difficult to talk about or ask for help. Dr Brighton Chireka, a GP from Folkestone in Kent, explains why it is so common and how to take action.

We all want to be seen as doing well in our lives and in our relationships. If one goes to a gathering of men and listens to them talking, one would think every man is Superman. Many will talk about how good they are in the bedroom, and this makes it hard for any man to admit that they may be having some challenges in that department.

Don’t suffer in silence

Sadly, many men feel ashamed to talk about erectile dysfunction (ED) and choose to suffer in silence, pretending that everything is fine. There is nothing to be ashamed of or to apologise for and it’s important to remember that erectile problems are common. They are simpler and quicker to resolve if you tell your doctor. I hope this article will encourage men who are experiencing erectile dysfunction to go and see their doctors to openly discuss the problem.

This article is for information only – consult a doctor or other healthcare professional for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is the inability to get an erection or maintain it. It’s much more common than people realise as most men experience it at some time in their life. According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), it is estimated that half of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 will have it to some degree.

Causes of erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction can have physical and psychological causes. It’s important for your doctor to work out the root of your erectile dysfunction so they can treat it effectively. If you can get an erection in some situations, such as when you masturbate or when you wake up, the cause is likely to be psychological or related to stress. If you can’t get an erection at all the cause is most likely to be a physical problem.

Physical causes of ED include:

  • Changes in hormone levels (chemicals produced by the body) which can reduce sexual desire.
  • Anything that affects the flow of blood to the penile vessels such as narrowing of arteries.
  • Surgery or injury to the pelvic area or spine.
  • Some prescription drugs used to treat raised blood pressure, antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs and anticonvulsant drugs may also cause erectile dysfunction.

Some medical conditions, including the following, are also associated with the physical causes of erectile dysfunction:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • raised blood pressure
  • raised cholesterol
  • low testosterone

Some lifestyle factors can also cause ED, these include:

  • drinking too much alcohol
  • smoking
  • taking recreational drugs such as cannabis and cocaine
erectile dysfunction
Don’t let erectile dysfunction make you depressed. Speak to your doctor.

How is erectile dysfunction treated?

Erectile dysfunction is primarily treated by tackling the cause of the problem, whether this is physical or psychological. Treatments for ED have improved significantly in recent years, we now need to encourage affected men to open up and get the right treatment.

Lifestyle changes can play an important role in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Stopping smoking, excessive drinking or drug use may solve the problem. Losing weight and keeping an eye on your cholesterol could help and will also improve one’s general health.

Medication such as sildenafil (Viagra) can be used to manage erectile dysfunction in at least two-thirds of cases. Vacuum pumps that encourage blood to flow to the penis and cause an erection are also successful in 90% of cases.

Psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and sex therapy can also be used in cases where stress is the primary factor.

If your problem is related to prescribed medication you’re taking, your doctor may be able to switch you to a different kind.

Using the internet

We are now living in the internet age where we can find anything online. As some men find erectile dysfunction embarrassing, they may be tempted to look for treatment on their own.

While it is possible to buy medication over the internet, you should always exercise caution as there are many sites that offer counterfeit medicines. These are unregulated and could cause unpleasant side effects or they may not be suitable for you.

You should always ensure that any online medical service is registered with a proper registration body such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in the UK and that all doctors are registered with an organisation such as the General Medical Council (GMC). Any prescribed medicines should also come from a pharmacy, which is registered in your particular country.

I hope this article can be the beginning of your journey to getting your sexual life back on track, and I wish you the best.

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