Erectile dysfunction, which is also called ED, and impotency by some, means that a man is unable to achieve and sustain an erection which is adequate for sexual intercourse more than one-half of the time. It is a different condition from having problems related to ejaculation, orgasm and having sexual desire.
A full erection requires that all three of the following occur at the same time:
- Proper functioning of the nerves of the penis
- Adequate blood supply to the penis
- A stimulus from the brain
Common conditions that cause ED include: atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), nerve disorders, stress, depression, performance anxiety, injury of the penis, and certain medications. Some of the psychological conditions mentioned above may be associated with excess alcohol drinking (more than three drinks a day), which is another reason for limiting alcohol intake. Additional information about Ed follows.
Preventing and Decreasing the Risk of Erectile Dysfunction
The following actions are likely to prevent or decrease a person’s risk of ED:
- Exercise 30 minutes or more at least 5 days a week (every day is better)
- Control your weight (See “Obesity” for more information)
- Don’t smoke, smoking increases the risk of atherosclerosis
- Don’t use illegal drugs
- Take your medications as prescribed
- If you have a chronic disease like diabetes, which is more common in people of color, it’s important to control them by following your doctor’s advice.
What to Do about Erectile Dysfunction
Before focusing on the treatment of erectile dysfunction, it’s important to see a doctor and have a complete examination, because problems with erection may be due to more than a sexual issue.
If there is erectile dysfunction, there are many ways to treat it. Therefore, it’s important to see your doctor if you think you might have it. Urologists are doctors who specialize in treating erectile dysfunction. You and your doctor can, together, decide on the best treatment for you. The choices include oral medications, sex therapy, penile injections, and surgery. Before deciding, the doctor will ask a variety of questions such as:
- When were symptoms of ED first noticed?
- How often and for how long did erections last in the past?
- When did the erections begin to change, and under what conditions?
- Are there problems in the relationship with your current sex partner?
After the two of you have discussed the situation fully, and an appropriate evaluation has been made, a decision can be made by the two of you on the preferred treatment. Sometimes, such treatment may involve trying more than one thing in a stepwise fashion.