Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a commonly treated sex problem, but probably the one that men feel most uncomfortable talking about. It may not be easy talking about ED, but calling your doctor is the first step towards finding a solution. If you’re experiencing ED, you’re not alone. It affects an estimated 30 million men.
But, while it is common to have occasional problems, ED that happens frequently or becomes progressively worse can indicate an underlying condition and should be treated.
It can be caused by:
- Restricted blood flow to the penis
- Nerve damage
- Emotional reasons, like stress
- Underlying health conditions like diabetes or heart disease
- Some medications and cancer treatment
- Worry about sexual performance, which can create a self-fulfilling cycle
Whatever the cause, your sex life, self-esteem, and relationships can be affected by ED. Finding and treating the cause is good for your health and your sex life.
Your first step with your doctor is to determine the cause of your ED. At your appointment, your doctor will:
- Discuss your health history, including:
- Overall health
- Your ED history and how it is affecting you
- Lifestyle, including drug or alcohol use
- Stress and emotional health, including recent changes in relationships
- Give you a physical exam, including:
- Heart and circulation
- And possibly do some testing, including:
- Taking blood and urine samples
- Ultrasound to check blood flow
- Using a vascular stimulant to test erection
- Overnight test to check for sleep erections
Depending on the cause, your doctor may recommend one or more treatments.
Improving your heart health – Healthy circulation is imperative for a healthy erection. If you have heart disease or risk factors, your doctor may discuss ways to improve your heart health.
Lifestyle changes – Diet or exercise changes, quitting smoking, or seeing a counselor for relationship problems, stress, depression, or anxiety may help.
Changing current medications – If a current medication may be altering your sex drive, erections, ejaculation, or orgasm, your doctor may discuss alternate medications.
ED medications – Your doctor may prescribe ED medications, like Cialis or Viagra, to increase the flow of blood to your penis.
Testosterone therapy – If blood tests show low testosterone, you may be prescribed testosterone therapy.
Self-injection therapy – Some medications can be injected at home before sexual activity to increase blood flow to the penis.
Intraurethral medication – Intraurethral medications (also called transurethral) can be inserted into the head of the penis at home to increase blood flow.
Vacuum constriction devices – A VCD is an external pump that uses a vacuum to pull blood into the penis, causing an erection.
Penile implants – Implants placed directly into the penis can often help when other treatments don’t.
Surgery – If pelvic trauma caused artery damage, surgery to bypass the artery damage may help younger men. It is not recommended for men with hardened arteries.
Shockwave Therapy – Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses soundwaves to treat ED.
Treating the underlying cause of ED
It’s important to note that all these treatments are used as needed and wear off after sexual activity. You may still need to treat any underlying health problem that caused the ED.
Customized Treatment for a Highly Personal Problem
ED is a very personal problem with many causes. The good news is it has almost as many treatments. Together, you and your doctor will find a treatment that’s right for you. The most important step is to talk to your doctor.
Many men find sexual health embarrassing and difficult to talk about. Even if it’s difficult for you to talk about, remember that urologists have specialized training to help men with ED and do so in a supportive, non-judgemental manner.
Take control of ED and return to your best life – schedule your appointment now!