When erectile dysfunction begins to affect quality of life, it's time to explore treatment options.
- For some men, ED may be nothing more than a temporary inconvenience related to stress or anxiety.
- For other men, there may be underlying causes, such as heart disease or side effects associated with certain medications, contributing to the problem.
Possible Erectile Dysfunction Causes
A combination of nerve signals, hormones, emotions, and physical structures is what results in a normal, healthy erection in males. With ED, one or more of these elements is affected in a way that decreases sexual desire or contributes to difficulty obtaining and maintaining an erection. Prolonged depression, persistent anxiety, and relationship problems are among the psychological factors that could play a role in erectile dysfunction. Physical causes may include:
- Multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease
- Scar tissue within the penis (Peyronie’s disease)
- Sleep-related disorders
- Treatments related to prostate conditions or prostate cancer
- Issues due to spine surgery or surgery in the pelvic area
Making an ED Diagnosis
The diagnosis of erectile dysfunction usually starts when men bring up concerns about ED during a regular doctor’s visit or annual exam. In addition to a physical exam, diagnosis typically involves a urinalysis and blood test to look for signs of an infection or underlying condition. An ultrasound is sometimes done to view soft tissues and blood vessels within the penis and pelvic area. If a physical reason for ED isn’t found, patients may be advised to consider a psychological exam to pinpoint possible emotional issues.
If the determined cause of erectile dysfunction is an underlying health issue, treatment is typically focused on addressing such issues first. Some men see positive results from relatively simple remedies, such as changing medications or participating in couple’s therapy to work out relationship issues that may be causing high stress levels.
Sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis) are among the most common medications used to treat ED. Such drugs work by relaxing muscles within the penis to increase blood flow and circulation. Men may also benefit from non-surgical treatment options that include:
- Vigorous aerobic activity
- Testosterone replacement therapy, if low testosterone levels are part of the problem
- Self-injections to trigger an erection when desired
- Vacuum erection device
- Intraurethral suppository (MUSE)
- Losing weight to help with underlying health issues and circulation problems
Surgery for ED
When circulation is the primary cause of ED and non-surgical options aren’t effective, vascular reconstructive surgery may be recommended to improve blood flow to and within the penis. Another surgery option is a penile implant, which can be inflatable or bendable. Most men report being satisfied with results following implant surgery.
The most effective way for men to reduce their odds of experiencing issues with erectile dysfunction is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding smoking, taking steps to manage stress and anxiety, and getting regular exercise. Controlling conditions like diabetes and chronic high blood pressure that could affect circulation may also help some men minimize ED problems.