Erectile dysfunction (E.D) is a prevalent problem globally. Around 30% of all sexually active men suffer the condition silently. Because of denial and embarrassment, many men are ashamed to come forward once symptoms of the condition set in. Erectile dysfunction is defined as the persistent inability to initiate and maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. The symptoms often extend over six months and involve around 75% of all sexual encounters. The causes are usually medical or psychological. Nonetheless, to understand how erectile dysfunction develops, it’s essential to understand how an erection occurs physiologically.
The normal erectile function relies on an adequate blood supply, innervation, and hormonal input. During an erection the penile vasculature becomes engorged. The engorgement serves to increase both the size and firmness of the organ. Parasympathetic excitatory input is responsible for the vasodilation that occurs within the penis. Hormones also play an essential role in achieving an erection. Testosterone is responsible for sexual desire and arousal, while nitric oxide directly causes vasodilatation that leads to an erection. Interference in the blood supply, innervation, and hormonal input can cause erectile dysfunction. Moreover, since sexual desire and arousal relies on the limbic system, psychological influences determine the ability to achieve an erection.
Among older men, erectile dysfunction is primarily caused by interference of the blood flow in the penis. Atherosclerosis and diabetes are common geriatric conditions that block or reduce blood flow within the penis. High blood pressure, obesity, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease can also lead to erectile dysfunction. Alcohol, tobacco and other social drugs are also known to interfere with blood flow in various organs, including the penis. Moreover, certain prescription drugs have erectile dysfunction as a possible side effect. 90% of the causes of erectile dysfunction in older men is medical
Erectile dysfunction among young men is majorly attributed to psychological problems. Fatigue, stress, and depression top the list. Young men often have personal sexual fears and carry a feeling of inadequacy that culminates in erectile dysfunction. Anxiety and rejection also contribute to dysfunction. Additionally, research shows that sexual abuse in childhood is likely to cause erectile dysfunction. Unlike medical causes of erectile dysfunction, psychological causes need a multi-disciplinary approach.
Although erectile dysfunction is common among older men, it should not be accepted as a normal part of the aging process. There are several steps men can take to prevent erectile dysfunction. Since high blood pressure, serum sugars and cholesterol levels cause E.D, it’s important to monitor blood pressure, blood sugars and cholesterol regularly. Moreover, a routine medical check-up goes a long way in preventing the condition. Eating healthy, watching your weight, exercising, and relaxing are some of the simple ways you can maintain a healthy erectile function. It’s also important to keep off social drugs, cigarettes, and excessive alcohol. A healthy body and mind keep your sexual function at its best.
In case you develop symptoms of erectile dysfunction it’s important to see a doctor. Don’t wait for the worst outcome before getting the necessary attention. Suffering in silence does more harm than good