Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence, is a common health problem affecting up to one in five males.1 Most men will experience some level of erectile dysfunction at some point in their life.
ED can affect men of all ages but is most common later in life (over the age of 40). Younger men suffering from erection problems can usually be as a result of anxiety, tiredness, stress, drinking too much alcohol or the pressures to perform when with a sexual partner.
Effective treatment for ED can range from changes to your lifestyle and/or through the use of medicines such as Viagra/sildenafil, Cialis/tadalafil, Levitra/vardenafil and Spedra/avanafil (all of which are taken orally).
Referring yourself for counselling or therapy can also be an alternative and quite effective treatment option. Do not allow ED to spoil your sex life. Taking control of your condition and getting the right treatment will mean you continue to enjoy a happy and healthy sex life.
The definition of erectile dysfunction (ED)
Erectile dysfunction is when a male is unable to achieve an erection (or maintain an erection during sexual intercourse with a partner). This usually means that you are unable to get an erection following arousal or you achieve an erection but are unable to maintain it before or during sexual intercourse. If this occurs on multiple occasions especially over a short period of time, then you should speak to a healthcare professional to ascertain the cause(s) and to discuss suitable treatment options.
How does an erection occur?
For you to understand the cause of your erectile dysfunction, you must first understand the complicated processes involved in achieving an erection. The brain needs to interact with nerves, hormones and blood vessels for the process to be successful. The involvement of multiple components means this pathway can be disrupted at numerous points and result in failing to achieve an erection.
Your penis consists of twin chambers called the corpus cavernosa. During arousal, the walls of the corpus cavernosa are instructed to relax by a nucleotide called cGMP, which enables the chambers to accommodate increased blood flow. In addition to this, the veins leaving your penis are instructed to reduce the flow of blood away, increasing the blood pressure in your penis, creating an erection. PDE-5 is an enzyme that naturally breaks down cGMP. Therefore, erection problems can occur when there is an imbalance between the PDE-5 enzyme and the cGMP nucleotide.
Why does erectile dysfunction happen?
There are many physical and psychological causes which can lead to impotence/ED. It is important to identify the cause so the most appropriate treatment can be selected.
- Any condition which affects blood flow (hypertension, hypercholesteremia, atherosclerosis)
- Diabetes (both type 1 and type 2)
- Changes in levels of certain hormones (testosterone, prolactin, thyroid, etc.)
- A raised BMI
- An injury which results in damage to the nervous system linking the brain to your penis
- Surgery, MS (multiple sclerosis), chemotherapy, radiotherapy, local trauma, etc.
- Illicit drug use, smoking and drinking excessive levels of alcohol
- Anxiety (especially if you have suffered erectile dysfunction in the past or are likely to suffer from performance anxiety)
- Lack of interest in sex
Take control of erectile dysfunction now
The most important thing is to discuss the situation with your partner and your doctor to get the appropriate treatment. If you feel uncomfortable discussing this with your GP, we can help by arranging a consultation with a specialist, either over the phone or through this website.
Making lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your erectile dysfunction. Stopping smoking, dietary changes, especially if weight is an issue and limiting alcohol consumption to no more than 14 units per week can all have positive impacts.
For psychological problems, you may benefit from counselling or therapy. If your problem is physical in nature, then your GP will be able to perform an examination and prescribe suitable treatment through medication.
Prescription only medication
The most commonly used medicines for treating erectile dysfunction are PDE-5 inhibitors. This group of treatments increases the blood flow to the penis allowing you to achieve and maintain an erection. The most common medicines in this category are Viagra/sildenafil, Cialis/tadalafil, Levitra/vardenafil and Spedra/avanafil. During your consultation, our doctor will be able to recommend the most appropriate treatment for you.