Studies show about one-half of American men over age 40 have some degree of erectile dysfunction, or ED.
ED is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection adequate for sexual function. The good news is that there are many safe and effective ED treatments available. There are variety of risk factors for ED including being older than 50. ED can be an early warning sign of a more serious illness such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. Patients undergoing surgery or radiation for cancer of the prostate, bladder, colon or rectum are at high risk for development of ED. Drugs used to treat these cancers may also lead to or worsen the condition.
Many prescription or over-the-counter medications may have side effects that cause erectile difficulties. Drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and alcohol may also lead to sexual problems as can smoking or sedentary lifestyle. Modifying lifestyle risk factors may contribute to overall health, and in some individuals, may correct mild erectile dysfunction.
Low T or abnormally low levels of circulating testosterone may cause ED although low testosterone is found in a minority of men who develop ED. Depression, relationship conflicts, stress and anxiety can also play a role. Most patients do not require extensive testing before beginning treatment. These tests are usually just not necessary. Your urologist will do a simple medical history, physical examination and a few routine blood tests. During your physical exam, your doctor will look for signs of problems with your circulatory, nervous and endocrine system.
Nearly 80% of men show improvement once they begin using the oral prescription medications known as phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors. Other drugs can be administered through suppositories and injections. A vacuum erection device is another option. A small number of men may need surgical placement of a penile prosthesis or implant.
You can start by clicking on Erectile Dysfunction under Patient Education on our website. When you’re ready to take the next step, don’t be embarrassed about talking about ED with your physician. As with any other medical problem, it’s important to be very open to allow for the best treatment options for you.