Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence), 5 Important Things to Know

  • Erectile dysfunction or impotence is the inability of a man to get or maintain an erection that allows sexual activity through penetration.

    It should be stressed that erectile dysfunction is not a disease, but a symptom of various other problems, whether physical, psychological or a combination of both.

    The occasional failure to get or keep an erection is not a cause for concern unless the problem persists. If they occur more frequently or worsen, see a doctor because medical intervention may be necessary.

    1. Cause
    According to Harvard Health Publishing, common causes of impotence include:

    Vascular (blood vessel) disease: An erection occurs when blood pools in the shaft of the penis. Vascular disease can limit the amount of blood that flows or stays in the penis, which can cause erection problems. This is the most common medical cause of impotence.

    Nerve damage: Nerves must function normally for a man to get and keep an erection. Nerves can be damaged by diabetes, multiple sclerosis, prostate surgery, or damage to the spinal cord.

    Psychological factors: Depression, anxiety, guilt, or fear can sometimes cause sexual problems. At one time, these factors were considered the main causes of impotence. Doctors now know that physical factors cause impotence in most men with this problem. However, shyness or "performance anxiety" can exacerbate physical problems.

    Drugs: Many drugs cause problems with sexual function. These include drugs for high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, and prostate cancer.

    Hormonal problems: Abnormal levels of certain hormones can interfere with erections and sexual desire. Hormone problems, such as low testosterone levels, are a rare cause of impotence.

    Other factors that can contribute to impotence include:

    Tobacco use, because it restricts blood flow to the veins and arteries, can, over time, lead to chronic health conditions that lead to erectile dysfunction.

    Overweight, especially when it comes to obesity.

    Drug and alcohol use, especially in long-term drug users or heavy drinkers.

    2. Symptoms
    Impotent men have erection problems or difficulty maintaining an erection. This usually interferes with sexual activity.

    Impotence can occur suddenly or gradually. Some men slowly lose the firmness of their erections or the duration of an erection. Meanwhile, in some other men, especially those whose impotence is mainly due to psychological factors, the problem may occur unexpectedly. You can improve at any time.

    Impotent men can continue to have normal orgasms and ejaculate without having a full erection.

    3. Diagnosis
    In most men, a physical exam and medical history review are enough for a doctor to diagnose erectile dysfunction and recommend treatment.

    If you have a chronic condition or your doctor suspects a condition underlying your impotence, you may need further testing or a referral to a specialist.

    Some tests to discover underlying medical conditions for impotence may include:

    Physical exam: This may include an exam of the penis and testicles, as well as a check for nerve sensation.

    Blood tests – to check for signs of disease, diabetes, low testosterone levels, and other medical conditions.

    Urinalysis – to look for signs of diabetes and other possible underlying medical conditions.

    Ultrasound (USG): This involves a transducer that is placed over the blood vessels that supply the penis. This allows the doctor to see if there is a blood flow problem. This test is sometimes done along with an injection of medication into the penis to stimulate blood flow and cause an erection.

    Psychological exam: The doctor may ask questions to check for depression and possibly other psychological causes of erectile dysfunction.

    4. Treatment
    First, the doctor will make sure you get the right treatment for any other health conditions you may have. It may be that this condition causes impotence, or worsens it, so it must be managed properly.

    Then the doctor will directly treat the impotence. There are a variety of treatments available for impotence. However, this can vary for each person depending on the cause.

    Some impotence treatment options include:

    1. Lifestyle changes

    Men with erectile dysfunction can often improve sexual function by making a few lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, losing weight, and exercising regularly can help improve blood flow.

    If you experience impotence after taking a new medication, talk to your doctor.

    2. Oral medications

    Viagra is one of the popular drugs for impotence. However, as reported by RxList, this is not the only drug. Other options include:


    These medications work by increasing blood flow to the penis when aroused and are taken 30 to 60 minutes before sexual activity. The medication should not be taken more than once a day.

    Cialis can be taken up to 36 hours before sexual activity and is available in lower daily doses. Staxyn dissolves in the mouth. All require a prescription for safety reasons.

    3. Injection

    There are also injectable or injectable medications for erectile dysfunction. Some men maintain stronger erections by injecting this medication directly into the penis. This medication works by dilating the blood vessels, causing the penis to swell with blood.

    Another option is medicinal pellets that are inserted into the urethra and can cause an erection in 10 minutes.

    Discuss the use of this injection in detail with your doctor before using it.

    4. Vacuum the penis

    Vacuum devices for erectile dysfunction, also called penis pumps or vacuum cleaners, are an alternative treatment.

    How it works The penis is placed in a cylinder, then a pump draws air from the cylinder to create a partial vacuum around the penis and cause it to fill with blood, leading to an erection. An elastic band that is placed around the base of the penis is used to maintain an erection during sexual intercourse.

    Discuss the use of these devices with your doctor, and especially the use of elastic bands to avoid possible damage to the penis.

    5. Operation

    If impotence is caused by a blockage in an artery leading to the penis, surgery can restore blood flow.

    The ideal candidate for surgery is often a young man whose blockage is due to a groin or pelvic injury. Surgery is not recommended for older men with narrowed arteries that run throughout the body.

    6. Implants

    For men with persistent erectile dysfunction, penile implants can help restore sexual function.

    Inflatable implants use two cylinders that are surgically placed inside the penis. When an erection is desired, the man uses a pump to fill the cylinder with fluid under pressure.

    Alternatively, malleable implants with surgically implanted rods can be used to strengthen erections.

    7. Psychotherapy

    Psychotherapy can benefit men with impotence even when the impotence has a known physical cause.

    Therapists can instruct the man and his partner to learn techniques to reduce sexual performance anxiety and increase intimacy. Therapy can also help couples adjust to the use of devices, such as vacuums and implants.

    8. Alternative therapy

    If you want to try impotence supplements, talk to your doctor first. Supplements like these can contain 10 or more ingredients and can complicate other health conditions.

    Asian ginseng and ginkgo biloba are popular, but there isn't a lot of quality research on their effectiveness. Some men find that taking DHEA supplements improves their ability to have erections. Unfortunately, the long-term safety of DHEA supplements is unknown. Most doctors don't recommend it.

    There are many dietary supplements that claim to treat impotence. However, regulatory agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warn that many of them are not what they say or are not what they seem.

    An investigation found that erectile dysfunction supplements often contained off-label prescription drugs, including the active ingredient Viagra. This can put men at risk of dangerous drug interactions.

    Consult a doctor before using any supplement to treat impotence.

    5. Prevention
    The most recommended way to prevent impotence is to live a healthy lifestyle and control existing medical conditions. Example:

    Work closely with doctors to manage diseases like heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic health conditions.

    Don't miss routine checkups and health screenings with doctors.

    Stop smoking, limit or avoid alcohol, and don't use drugs.

    Exercise routine.

    Practice managing stress well.

    Get help for anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems.

    In general, the outlook for men with impotence is very good. Most cases have medical causes that cannot be cured. However, there are many treatment options available to help restore sexual function.

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    Some causes of impotence can be cured. These include impotence caused by psychological problems, hormonal disorders, and traumatic injuries to the penile arteries.