Erectile dysfunction is quite a common disorder affecting men all over the world. Once generally considered as a condition only affecting older men, erectile dysfunction has been found to be more prevalent among men aged less than 40 than previously thought.
Naturally, a man will question if his erectile dysfunction will last forever and this will be the worry for most men. Erectile dysfunction can even put a strain on relationships and cause their breakdown, so even the partner may also be worried and ask the same question!
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Approximately 1 in 5 men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction in the UK and some men do not even have the condition diagnosed because they feel too embarrassed to talk about it. Erectile dysfunction is also known as impotence and this is where a man cannot get an erection or sustain it long enough for satisfactory sexual intercourse. Whatever the case may be, the result is that there is a reduced blood supply going to the penis and this stops erections naturally from happening during any sexual stimulation. As expected, men experiencing continuous erectile dysfunction can have depression (in fact, depression and erectile dysfunction often co-exist) and become stressed which can have an impact on their relationship. So it is really important that men are encouraged to seek help and not feel embarrassed or ashamed in doing so.
As mentioned earlier, erectile dysfunction is not limited to older men as some people think. In fact, a study published in the ‘Journal of Sexual Medicine’ in 2013 found that one in four men who sought help for ED at an outpatient’s clinic in Milan were under the age of 40. The study was based on data collected from 439 men, 26 per cent of whom were under 40, who attended an outpatient clinic between 2010 and 2012 for newly developed ED. Surprisingly, nearly half of those men under 40 years were severely affected by ED when compared to 40 per cent of men aged over 40 years.
But how ‘severe’ is severe?
In general, younger men may have higher sexual performance demands than older men and even missing out on a single erection could be regarded as severe erectile dysfunction for younger men, whereas older men missing several erections might consider that to be severe. So different age groups could potentially perceive the condition at different levels.
Also, older men often think that erectile dysfunction is a symptom of the ageing process which is natural and better accepted than by younger men. As a result, they may not seek medical advice as quickly as a younger man.
Causes of erectile dysfunction
There are many possible causes for men to experience erectile dysfunction and they can be physical causes, psychological causes or both. Certain lifestyle choices such as smoking and a lot of alcohol consumption (especially over a long period of time) can contribute. Sometimes, making simple changes in your lifestyle such as stopping smoking and relaxing can have a positive effect on sexual performance.
It is also important to mention that having erectile problems from time to time is not something to worry about in most cases. However, when it becomes persistent then you should speak to a doctor as there may be an underlying cause such as a heart problem or diabetes.
Examples of physical causes (but not limited to):
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks
- Vascular disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Side effects of some medication such as beta blockers
Examples of psychological causes (but not limited to):
Some lifestyle choices can also affect erectile function such as over-consumption of alcohol (especially if over a long period of time), high fat diet, smoking and even living in a stressful environment. Having a balanced diet, keeping to a healthy weight and doing regular exercise can all help to improve and maintain sexual health. There have been studies done to show that erectile dysfunction is relatively uncommon in men who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet which consists of lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and olives.
So does erectile dysfunction last forever?
Not necessarily. By making some simple changes and removing any known cause, it is possible to stop erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction is not really a chronic, long-term condition but instead can be a problem that is ongoing if the cause remains. However, it is important to understand that erectile dysfunction can potentially be a sign of a more serious underlying condition such as diabetes or heart disease and these conditions are not so easy to treat and remove!
Some simple changes in the lifestyle can be made which can all help the erection problem to go away. Making these lifestyle changes and seeing the impact it could possibly have can often indicate that erectile dysfunction does not need to last forever. An Australian study was carried out on 810 men with erectile dysfunction, almost a third of the men were able to overcome their problem of erectile dysfunction simply by modifying their lifestyle and adjusting it to become a healthier one. So simple measures taken can improve outcome effectively.
As mentioned earlier, erectile dysfunction can be due to mental health-related problems such as stress, anxiety or depression rather than physical diseases, it is worth having a discussion about the issues with a doctor, pharmacist or even a counsellor who may be able to help. Sometimes, just having that all – important conversation with someone who can listen to you can help to relieve some stress. Trying to deal with problems head-on, talking through them and trying to find ways to solve them can often have a positive impact and help with improving erectile function. Having the support of family and friends in times of need is important and even if they are not available, you can always see you doctor or talk to your pharmacist who is there to support. If stress, anxiety and worries are not dealt with appropriately, erectile dysfunction would certainly not stop on its own and could potentially add more stress above everything else!
Treating erectile dysfunction
There are a number of different oral treatments that can be prescribed for erectile dysfunction and all have been successfully proven to work. Probably the most well-known medicine used globally for the treatment of erectile dysfunction is Viagra, which is the brand name for Sildenafil. It has been proven to successfully work through clinical studies when compared to placebo and also has high prescribing rates.
Viagra mechanism of action is by blocking an enzyme which usually causes the blood vessels to narrow. As a result, the blood vessels become wider, causing an increase in blood supply to the genitals and therefore helps with getting an erection. Viagra is available in the UK in strengths of 25mg, 50mg and 100mg tablets and can be obtained on a prescription. For the dosage, a maximum of one tablet in 24 hours should be taken, preferably on an empty stomach in order to get better absorption. Effects of Viagra are usually seen within an hour provided that there is some sexual stimulation and its effect can last up to 5 hours.
The most common side effects of Viagra (but not limited to):
- low blood pressure
- upset stomach
There are some people who should not take Viagra and you should always speak to your doctor who will assess for your suitability to take Viagra treatment.
So remember that although erectile dysfunction can be very worrying for some men, it can potentially be resolved by making some lifestyle changes. But it is important to realise that there is a chance it can come back if there is a more serious, underlying cause. If you have generally good health and are suffering from erectile dysfunction, it is always worth a visit to the doctor to check that there is no underlying condition that may be causing it. There is a possibility that treatment would be given to help with getting and maintaining an erection but overall we can quite safely say that in most cases, erectile dysfunction does not need to last forever!
- www.nhs.org.uk/erectile dysfunction
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