Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, can be defined as the inability to have and maintain an erection. Occasional erection issues are normal but if a man experiences erectile dysfunction on an on-going basis, this is cause for concern and becomes an issue that must be treated by a doctor.

The symptoms of erectile dysfunction are few, obvious, and include the following:

-Having trouble getting an erection
-Having trouble maintaining an erection
-Reduction in sexual desire

There are many causes for erectile dysfunction. The following is a list of some of the most common causes. This list is not exhaustive; therefore, if you develop a persistent symptom not mention on this list but associated with erectile dysfunction, consult your physician.

The most common causes of erectile dysfunction include:

– Diabetes
– Hypertension
– Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
– Stress, anxiety, and/or depression
– Use of alcohol and/or tobacco
– Medication side effects
– Injuries of the brain and spinal cord
– Hypogonadism (which leads to lower testosterone levels)
– Multiple Sclerosis
– Parkinson’s Disease
– Radiation therapy to the testicles
– Stroke
– Prostate or bladder surgery
– Fatigue
– Kidney failure
– Cirrhosis of the liver
– Hemachromatosis (too much iron in the blood)
– Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
– Hormone imbalance (testosterone, prolactin or thyroid)
– Peyronie’s Disease (a condition associated with erectile dysfunction in which scar tissue forms inside the penis, and the penis is usually bent or curved during an erection. Injury to the penis could also result in scar tissue formation.

There are certain psychological factors that may lead to episodes of erectile dysfunction. These include:

– Feelings of nervousness about sex, perhaps due to a bad experience or because of a previous episode of erectile dysfunction
– Stress
– Relational problems with your sex partner
– Feeling so self conscious that you cannot enjoy sex
– Thinking that your partner is not enjoying the experience

Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction

A number of risk factors may be associated with erectile dysfunction.

-Medical problems: A number of the most common medical issues associated with erectile dysfunction are listed above.
-Smoking: The use of tobacco can potentially restrict the normal flow of blood to the veins and the arteries. This, in turn, can have a direct impact on erectile dysfunction.
-Weight: Obesity
-Medical/Surgical Procedures: Prostate surgery and radiation as a means of cancer treatment
-Medications: Antidepressants, antihistamines, and blood pressure medication can all affect erectile function.
-Drug and alcohol use

Diagnosing Erectile Dysfunction

You may initially feel too embarrassed to seek help for your erectile dysfunction, but many treatment options are available because this is a condition that afflicts many, many men. When you see your physician, he or she will perform a full physical exam, concentrating specifically on the genitalia. Certain blood tests may be performed in order to check for conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and testosterone levels. Urine tests can be used to detect signs of diabetes. Ultrasound is helpful in checking the blood flow in the penis.

Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction

Treatment for erectile dysfunction will depend largely on its etiology. A full physical is recommended in order to ascertain the reason for this problem. Once your doctor has diagnosed your medical condition, he may prescribe one of the various medications that address erectile dysfunction. Medicines such as sildenafil, tadalfil and vardenafil are administered orally. Not everyone can use these medicines. If you are not able to tolerate any of the oral medications, your doctor may speak with you about alprostadil, which is a synthetic version of prostaglandin E. This medication can be administered two ways: It can be injected directly into the penis or, as a tiny suppository, it can be inserted into the urethra. Your doctor can help you decide which treatment is best for you.

If medication is not right for you there are several other available options that can effectively address issues of erectile dysfunction, including penile implant, vacuum pump devices, or surgical intervention. Your doctor may refer you to an urologist to discuss these options.

Due to the nature of this condition, most men find themselves too embarrassed to speak to their doctor about diagnostics to confirm the dysfunction and medication to treat it. Keep in mind that this is a common affliction and many men suffer with episodes of erectile dysfunction.

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