Erectile Dysfunction – Causes, Diagnosing and Prevention
The inability to get and/or keep an erection firm enough for a sexual intercourse is called erectile dysfunction or impotence. If you have an erection trouble from time to time, it isn’t necessarily something to be concerned about. Nevertheless, as an ongoing issue, erectile dysfunction might affect self-confidence, cause stress and contribute to some relationship problems. In addition, it can also be a sign of underlying health conditions that require treatment and can be risk factors for cardiovascular diseases down the road. Therefore, anyone concerned about erectile dysfunction should talk to their doctor even if they are embarrassed. To reverse erectile dysfunction, it is sometimes enough to treat and underlying condition. In other cases, direct treatments for erectile dysfunction might be necessary.
Causes of ED
Male sexual arousal is a rather complex process which involves blood vessels, muscles, nerves, hormones, brain and emotions. An issue with any of these can cause erectile dysfunction. In addition, mental health concerns and stress can both cause and worsen problems with getting and keeping an erection. A combination of psychological and physical problems can sometimes result in erectile dysfunction. For example, minor physical issues slow a sexual response and that might cause anxiety about keeping an erection.
Common physical causes of erectile dysfunction:
- High levels of cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Atherosclerosis (clogged blood vessels)
- Heart disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peyronie’s disease
- Metabolic syndrom
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alcoholism and drug abuse
- Tobacco use
- Certain prescription medication
- Sleep disorders
- Injuries or surgeries affecting the spinal cord or pelvic area
- Treatments for enlarged prostate or prostate cancer
Human brain plays a crucial role in triggering the series of events causing an erection (in males) and is starts with feelings of sexual desire and excitement. What can interfere with sexual feelings, worsen or cause erectile dysfunction? Psychological causes of getting and maintaining erection firm enough for sex include anxiety, depression, as well as other mental health issues, stress and relationship problems due to poor communication, stress and similar concerns.
Answering questions and a physical exam are everything a doctor needs to diagnose and suggest treatments for erectile dysfunction in most cases. If a person has chronic health conditions or a doctor suspects that there are underlying conditions involved, further tests and a consultation with a specialists might be needed. These tests usually include:
- Overnight erection test – wrapping a special device around the penis before a person goes to bed; the device measures the strength and the number of erections that are achieved during the night. This test is good to determine whether an erectile dysfunction is related to physical or psychological causes.
- Psychological exam – to screen for depression, anxiety and other possible psychological causes of ED
- Physical exam of penis and testicles, plus checking patient’s nerves for sensation.
- Urinalysis – used to look for signs of underlying health conditions such as diabetes.
- Blood tests – to check signs of low testosterone levels, hearth disease, diabetes etc.
- Ultrasound – to check blood flow problems
Making healthy lifestyle choices and managing any existing medical conditions are the best ways to prevent erectile dysfunction. This means working with your medical team to manage heart disease, diabetes and chronic health conditions, and seeing your physician for regular medical screening tests and checkups. Furthermore, workout on a regular basis, take steps to reduce stress, stop smoking and avoid or limit alcohol. Finally, get help if you feel anxious, depressed or have other mental health concerns.