Make no bones about it: erectile dysfunction is a hard problem to have. The ability to achieve and maintain an erection is a point of pride for men, many of whom are scared stiff at the prospect of growing impotent as they age. In this post we will examine at length the means by which ED pops up, and how the condition can be eased.
Erectile Dysfunction – Causes
Erectile dysfunction can arise in response to a great many factors. First, we must separate ED caused by an underlying physical ailment from ED whose cause is psychological in nature, i.e. erection is made impossible by the thoughts or feelings of the patient. While there is certainly a large overlap between these two veins of ED, there are certain physical cause which can cause ED independent of the patient’s state of mind.
Medical causes of ED include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, potassium deficiency, and hormone disorders such as hypogonadism. Nerve trauma can also cause ED, following prostate surgery for instance. Use of certain drugs (both medically prescribed and illicit) can also inhibit erection. Arsenic poisoning from tainted drinking water, though rare, can also result in ED.
Psychological causes can be equally as varied and include depression (but also side effects of antidepressants), schizophrenia, substance abuse, anxiety, panic disorder, etc. Sometimes it may be difficult to assign these psychological causes to a specific syndrome. Although the penis is normally responsive to physical stimuli, often regardless of context, it is certainly possible that one might simply not be able to “get in the mood.”
The most common factor, of course, is aging. Smoking is also contraindicated, so don’t puff too many fags if you’re concerned about your ability to achieve erection. Finally, obesity is correlated with erectile dysfunction, so be careful about getting a little chubby.
Erectile Dysfunction – Symptoms
Simply put, ED can be defined as sexual dysfunction caused by an inability to achieve penile rigidity for long enough to complete intercourse. Because erectile dysfunction can have such a wide variety of causes, there’s no one test for it. Tests available to your doctor to help pinpoint the problem include duplex ultrasound, nocturnal penile tumescence (both “snap gauge” and “strain gauge” tests), penile biothesiometry, penile nerve function, dynamic infusion cavernosometry, corpus cavernosometry, and magnetic resonance angiography. Some of these tests may be expensive, but if you really want to know what’s causing your problem, your doctor has the tools in his hand.
Erectile Dysfunction – Prevention
Because much of erectile dysfunction is caused by cardiovascular problems, regular exercise may be one of the best ways to both treat and prevent ED. It also has the virtue of improving your mood and mental acuity, which may help with psychogenic ED cases. Aging is famously hard to prevent, but taking care of your overall health can only be a good thing in terms of ED. Because smoking causes arterial narrowing, quitting smoking will improve your chances of good penile function well into old age.
Erectile Dysfunction – Treatment
Impotence treatments (of varying effectiveness) are as old as medicine itself. In ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder recommended leeks, garlic, asparagus, and several other herbal treatments as aphrodisiacs. Snakes, goat and rooster genitals, and growths from the foreheads of newborn foals were all used in Greece and Rome as well. 13th-century alchemist Albertus Magnus recommended roasted wolf penis. (These herbal and animal remedies persist to this day in most of the world’s folk cultures, and are responsible for the poaching of many endangered species.)
Wild claims were later made for electrical and magnetic remedies, as well as penis pumps, splints, the Erector-Sleigh, and Gerson’s Constriction Bandage. Radio huckster John Romulus Brinkley made and lost a fortune by “goat gland” treatments wherein patients were literally implanted (sometimes fatally) with goat testes. Silicon rods implanted into the penis became popular in the 1970s and 1980s.
The introduction of Viagra (sildenafil) in 1998 changed everything. Finally, there was a reliable and medically reputable solution for physical impotence. Since then, this class of drugs, known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, has expanded to include Levitra (vardenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil), with more expected to hit the market soon. Icariin, an extract of horny goat weed, is also being looked at clinically.
Be careful of phony supplements claiming to cure ED: while some folk remedies may have a certain basis in reality, many more of them are a waste of money at best and dangerous at worst. Consider psychological counseling as a potential aid to treatment. Even if you don’t think it’s the main underlying factor, the ED itself may cause you anxiety or other negative feelings that could create a vicious circle of feedback. Don’t let yourself get down about getting it up!