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Lessons learned about erectile dysfunction

Please believe that you are not the only one!

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No man likes to think that he will ever suffer from erectile dysfunction and when it happens to them they may think that they are the only man that has ever been in this embarrassing situation, feeling that their masculinity and virility have been taken from them.

Erectile dysfunction is a subject that even in these enlightened days is rarely discussed with peers or even with the medical profession. This is a sad situation as GP’s are far more enlightened than they once were about these problems and have an ever growing list of treatments at their fingertips.

However, if and when a man decides to take the bull by the horns and seek help, he will find that there is much to be learned along the way, some things that may surprise him and it is these things that we are going to look at.

So what can you learn from having erectile dysfunction?

There are some outcomes from suffering from ED that may surprise you. They are more emotional and psychological than physical but may come as a surprise nevertheless.

  • Communication is important - it may be easy to pretend that there is nothing wrong and just avoid the subject. The problem is that as with any problem, ignoring it does not make it go away. It is important to discuss the problem with your partner and as partners, look to ways to solve it! The next step would be to seek help from your healthcare professional and as partners, this can be approached together. It is important that neither one of the partners is left to feel alone and powerless but if the issue can be solved together it can only improve the strength and depth of the relationship
  • Don’t ignore the problem - just ignoring the issue and avoiding sexual contact will not help matters. Not only will it not help with the ED but if ignored for too long it can have a devastating effect on your partner who is likely to feel that they are to blame. In addition, ignoring the problem can allow performance anxiety to build in the man; this can result in a man not attempting to have intercourse for they fear they will fail.
  • Remember that sexual performance is part of your masculinity - for many men the first time they are unable to perform, it can be an affront to their masculinity. This can lead to a period of mourning, both for what can appear as lost manhood but can also appear to be the end of healthy and enjoyable sex life.
  • It's not imaginary, it is real - do not allow anybody to tell you that erectile dysfunction is all in the mind. The truth is that the majority of ED cases have physical causes.
  • Don’t forget the effects the problem may have on your partner - if a man is unable to discuss what is happening to him then a situation can easily arise where their partner will start to feel neglected, unloved, unattractive and worthless which in turn can lead to depression, stress and relationship problems. It is understandable that if a man is struggling to achieve an erection, he will look inwards and blame himself but unless this is shared, it is likely that the partner will blame themselves and this is unhealthy for any relationship.

This leads us on to some facts about ED that you may not have been aware of and its physical causes.

Atherosclerosis is a disorder of the vascular system of circulation. It involves what is commonly known as ‘hardening of the arteries’ and is probably the most common cause of erectile dysfunction.  There are a number of conditions that can help to cause atherosclerosis and so indirectly contribute to ED. The conditions include:

  • Heart and vascular disease - the same disease process which creates heart disease can contribute to erectile dysfunction but does so earlier in the disease process. As heart disease develops there is a process of hardening or thickening of the arteries to the heart. Earlier in this process, the thickening of the arteries will also restrict blood supply to the genital area and result in ED.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) - this is an early indicator of developing heart disease. In response to the narrowing of the blood vessels, the pressure of blood in the system rises as the blood ‘forces’ its way around the reduced volume in the system.
  • Diabetes - the cause of erectile dysfunction in men with diabetes is a complicated issue but in general terms, diabetes can cause the blood supply to the genitals to be interrupted as well as causing damage to the nerves which are involved in the erection process.
  • Age related factors - although nobody wants to admit they are getting older, we all do and erectile dysfunction becomes more likely the older we get. Older tissue is less elastic and nerves can be less responsive which can result in erections becoming more difficult to achieve.
  • Chronic kidney disease - this problem can cause circulation problems as well as affect hormone levels, both of which can contribute to ED.
  • Multiple sclerosis - as MS develops there is progressive damage within the nervous system which can, eventually, cause damage to the nerves responsible for erectile dysfunction.
  • Parkinson’s disease - ED is a common sexual problem for men suffering from PD. The effects of the progressing disease, the side effects or Parkinson’s medication, as well as the anxiety and depression associated with PD, can reduce libido as well as affecting erections and orgasms. In addition, if the depression is treated then some antidepressant medication can actually cause ED.
  • Peyronie's disease - scarring in the penis which can be produced as a result of Peyronie’s disease can cause pain during an erection. This can result in psychological problems developing which can contribute to ED.
  • Injury - any type of injury to the genital area as a result of surgery, accident, radiation, chemotherapy and anything else that causes nerve, vascular or muscle damage to the region can result in ED.
  • Testosterone levels - low levels of testosterone can result in low sex drive and generally finding it more difficult to become aroused.
  • Natural ebb and flow to ED - the Massachusetts male ageing study carried out suggested that there may be a natural ‘ebb and flow’ to ED in that some men may suffer ED for a period of time then everything can return to normal; the cycle may keep recurring.
  • Connected to some medication - alongside illegal recreational drugs there are several types of medication that have the side effect of causing ED. They include antidepressants, antihistamines, hypertension medication, chemotherapy diuretics and tranquilizers amongst others.
  • Viagra is not always an effective treatment - many people believe that Viagra or other phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors (PDE % inhibitors) are a miracle cure for ED but there is actually a little more to it than that. Stimulation and foreplay is extremely important because these drugs will not work if you are not sexually aroused. It is also important to find the dosage that best suits you. In addition, these drugs have several side effects such as flushing, blocked and runny nose, stomach problems and headaches. For some people, the side effects will make it impossible for them to use this type of ED medication.
  • Perhaps ED saved my life - when you consider the extensive list of diseases that can contribute to erectile dysfunction it is easy to see how what appears to be a relatively ‘safe’ problem can be an early warning for something which is much more dangerous underlying the ED. For this problem, if for no other, it is important to seek medical attention when you realise that you are suffering from ED;  not only can your GP advise on suitable treatment for the ED but can also check for any underlying health issues which may exist.
  • Lifestyle choices may be more important than you think - ED may be able to improve your health prospects other than being an early warning for more serious disease. There are also a number of lifestyle choices that may contribute to ED that when changed will improve your health no end! Lifestyle choices to consider include:
    1. Smoking - whilst giving up smoking is vital to combating erectile dysfunction, it will improve your health no end!
    2. Being overweight is not good when you have erectile dysfunction and can be a major cause. Not only will losing weight improve erectile dysfunction it will be a major factor in improving your health
    3. As part of losing weight, it is likely that you will have improved your diet. This should have a positive effect on your levels of cholesterol and ‘bad fats’, both of which can contribute to ED
    4. The other obvious part of losing weight is taking regular exercise which improves overall circulation and so has a positive effect on ED.
  • Emotional causes - these can be everyday issues such as stress, anxiety and depression as well as relationship problems.

Life after erectile dysfunction

Believe me, such a thing does exist. The main difference is that you have to make time and whilst the sexual act may not be quite as ‘off the cuff’ as it once was it can still be pleasurable. Taking time to plan an erotic evening together can be exciting and making time for each other may be something you have not done for a long time. This is a time which can be spent getting to know each other again as well as being the perfect opportunity to relight the spark!

Conclusion

I am sure that you have been amazed at how many things a man can learn as a result of experiencing ED, in particular, just how many causes and contributory factors there are! Perhaps it then becomes more clear as to why this is such a common problem.

It is important to remember that whatever the cause of ED, there will be some type of treatment out there that can be used to successfully treat your type of erectile dysfunction. The variety of therapies that are now available suggest that there is a good chance that you will be able to find a solution to your problem.

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