Erectile dysfunction is a very common worry among men and can affect young as well as older men. It is generally more difficult for couples to handle this rather than single men because a sexual relationship gets involved in a couple. Victims are sometimes ashamed to talk about it, because men do not want to question their virility and the problem remains within the couple. Few people think of consulting a doctor to find a solution even though it is both a psychological and sexual torture chamber. To remedy this, it is first important to know what is erectile dysfunction, its causes and treatments.
Erection Dysfunction: What is it?
Contrary to what most people think, erectile dysfunction is a disease that affects men for a variety of reasons. It is defined as the inability of the penis to obtain enough rigidity to penetrate it’s partner for a long time. Indeed, the longer the penis is erect, the more the couple blossoms during the sexual relationship.
Normally, the excitement of a man is manifested by the rigidity of his penis, because the blood comes to fill it. Following a stimulus of sensual order, his penis becomes hard, because the blood circulates in the cavernous organs which are the two small cylinders very flexible running along the penis. Indeed, the strong sensation felt by the man triggers the relaxation of the base muscles allowing the free entry of the blood. The dysfunction comes to the surface when this mechanism is stopped, the man can have a soft or less vigorous erection . The penis may be soft unable to reach a level of rigidity to ensure penetration, or it can be erect, but lasts only a few minutes and is right in the middle of a sexual action without feeling orgasm and omitted ejaculation. Also, the ability to have a fulfilling intimate moment is conditioned by the use of an exciting factor. This weakness can last for months and years if the afflicted man does not plan to seek treatment either by consulting a doctor or following treatments with natural supplements.
Erectile dysfunction symptoms might include persistent:
- Trouble getting an erection
- Trouble keeping an erection
- Reduced sexual desire
When to see a doctor?
A family doctor is a good place to start when you have erectile problems. See your doctor if:
- You have concerns about your erections or you’re experiencing other sexual problems such as premature or delayed ejaculation
- You have diabetes, heart disease or another known health condition that might be linked to erectile dysfunction
- You have other symptoms along with erectile dysfunction
Male sexual arousal is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction can result from a problem with any of these. Likewise, stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction.
Sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues causes erectile dysfunction. For instance, a minor physical condition that slows your sexual response might cause anxiety about maintaining an erection. The resulting anxiety can lead to or worsen erectile dysfunction.
Physical causes of erectile dysfunction
In many cases, erectile dysfunction is caused by something physical. Common causes include:
- Heart disease
- Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome — a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist and high cholesterol
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Certain prescription medications
- Tobacco use
- Peyronie’s disease — development of scar tissue inside the penis
- Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse
- Sleep disorders
- Treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate
- Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord
Psychological causes of erectile dysfunction
The brain plays a key role in triggering the series of physical events that cause an erection, starting with feelings of sexual excitement. A number of things can interfere with sexual feelings and cause or worsen erectile dysfunction. These include:
- Depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions
- Relationship problems due to stress, poor communication or other concerns
As you get older, erections might take longer to develop and might not be as firm. You might need more direct touch to your penis to get and keep an erection.
Various risk factors can contribute to erectile dysfunction, including:
- Medical conditions, particularly diabetes or heart conditions
- Tobacco use, which restricts blood flow to veins and arteries, can — over time — cause chronic health conditions that lead to erectile dysfunction
- Being overweight, especially if you’re obese
- Certain medical treatments, such as prostate surgery or radiation treatment for cancer
- Injuries, particularly if they damage the nerves or arteries that control erections
- Medications, including antidepressants, antihistamines and medications to treat high blood pressure, pain or prostate conditions
- Psychological conditions, such as stress, anxiety or depression
- Drug and alcohol use, especially if you’re a long-term drug user or heavy drinker
Complications resulting from erectile dysfunction can include:
- An unsatisfactory sex life
- Stress or anxiety
- Embarrassment or low self-esteem
- Relationship problems
- The inability to get your partner pregnant
The best way to prevent erectile dysfunction is to make healthy lifestyle choices and to manage any existing health conditions. For example:
- Work with your doctor to manage diabetes, heart disease or other chronic health conditions.
- See your doctor for regular checkups and medical screening tests.
- Stop smoking, limit or avoid alcohol, and don’t use illegal drugs.
- Exercise regularly.
- Take steps to reduce stress.
- Get help for anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns.
Natural Treatments of Erectile Dysfunction
Called the herbal Viagra, Panax ginseng (red ginseng) has solid research behind it. Researchers reviewed seven studies of red ginseng and ED in 2008. Dosages ranged from 600 to 1,000 milligrams (mg) three times daily. They concluded there was “suggestive evidence for the effectiveness of red ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.”
More current research is examining how red ginseng influences ED. Ginsenosides are one element present in Panax ginseng extract that have action at the cellular level to improve erection.
The action of Panax ginseng appears to be most effective for those with high lipids in their blood and metabolic syndrome. This herb is known to have anti-inflammatory action, improve lung function, and improve blood flow in other diseases — all characteristics that may reduce ED.
2. Rhodiola rosea
One small study indicated that Rhodiola rosea may be helpful. Twenty-six out of 35 men were given 150 to 200 mg a day for three months. They experienced substantially improved sexual function. This herb has been shown to improve energy and reduce fatigue. More studies are needed to understand action and ensure safety.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a natural hormone produced by your adrenal glands. It can be converted to both estrogen and testosterone in the body. Scientists make the dietary supplement from wild yam and soy.
The influential Massachusetts male aging study showed that men with ED were more likely to have low levels of DHEA. In 2009, 40 men with ED participated in another study in which half receiving 50 mg DHEA and half receiving a placebo once a day for six months. Those receiving the DHEA were more likely to achieve and maintain an erection.
More recently, DHEA has been identified as an option for treatment of ED for men with concurrent diabetes. ED commonly affects these men because of hormonal issues as well as diabetes complications that interfere with blood flow to organs.
L-arginine is an amino acid naturally present in your body. It helps make nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels to facilitate a successful erection and is essential for healthy sexual functioning.
Researchers studied the effects of L-arginine on ED. Thirty-one percent of men with ED taking 5 grams of L-arginine per day experienced significant improvements in sexual function.
A second study showed that L-arginine combined with pycnogenol, a plant product from tree bark, restored sexual ability to 80 percent of participants after two months. Ninety-two percent had restored sexual ability after three months.
Another placebo-controlled study found that L-arginine in combination with other medications was well-tolerated, safe, and effective for mild-to-moderate ED.
Though studies are mixed, many show positive results when acupuncture is used to treat ED. A 1999 study, for example, found that acupuncture improved the quality of erections and restored sexual activity in 39 percent of participants.
A later study published in 2003 reported that 21 percent of ED patients who received acupuncture had improved erections. Other studies have shown conflicting results, but this treatment has potential and may work for you.
The risks of acupuncture are low if provided by a licensed acupuncturist. Acupuncture shows promise for treating ED, but more studies are needed.
This supplement is extracted from the bark of the African yohimbe tree. Some studies have shown positive effects on sexual performance with use of this drug.
However, the American Urological Association doesn’t recommend yohimbe as an ED treatment. This is because there’s not a lot of evidence proving it works. Its side effects might be damaging to health. These include increased blood pressure and heart rate, irritability, and tremor.