Men’s Health Guide: What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

As we continue our recognition for Men’s Health Awareness Month, we’re addressing the aspects of erectile dysfunction, from what erectile dysfunction is, to its common causes and how it can be treated. It is important that we our conscious of issues that can potentially affect our bodies, to allow us and to help others spot possible underlying symptoms.

What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction, also known as ‘ED’, is the inability to have and maintain an erection that is firm enough to have sexual intercourse. Erectile issues are highly common amongst men, particularly in men over 40, and if it only happens from time-to-time then it is often nothing to worry about. However, if erectile problems are a recurring issue, then it can potentially be a sign of something more serious and you should speak to your doctor.

You should contact your GP if you regularly have trouble with:

  • Getting an erection
  • Maintaining an erection
  • Reduced sex drive

What causes Erectile Dysfunction?

The common causes of erectile dysfunction are often related to stress, lack of sleep, anxiety or as a result of drinking too much alcohol, which can all cause occasional inability to become erect. But if erectile dysfunction is happening often then it may be a sign of emotional problems or issues with your physical health, such as an underlying health condition.

These conditions can include:

  • Heart Disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sleep disorders
  • Side effects of certain prescribed medicine
  • Low testosterone

But, as well as the physical factors, there are also long-term psychological causes such as stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Erectile Dysfunction Treatment Options

If you are having consistent symptoms of erectile dysfunction, it’s important to contact your GP or visit a sexual health clinic to find out if you have any underlying health conditions that are the leading cause. During the appointment a doctor or nurse will ask you relevant questions about your relationship and lifestyle, they will also conduct a standard health check and perform a physical exam for any obvious causes.

Once diagnosed, the treatments for erectile dysfunction are often effective at resolving erectile problems, but the treatment offered for ED is dependent on the cause and some men have to test several different types to find the option that works for them. The most common treatments include hormone replacements for hormone issues, medication for high blood pressure or cholesterol, and a change in medication for those experiencing side effects. Viagra is also a well-known treatment that is used and is no longer required to be prescribed, but in circumstances when medicine doesn’t work, vacuum pumps are also an option as they increase blood flow to the penis encouraging an erection. If it’s mental health or emotional issues that are the root cause of erectile problems, there are different treatments in place such as counselling, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that can be discussed further with your GP.

The Impact of Erectile Dysfunction on Relationships

Erectile problems don’t just effect men, they can also have a significant impact on a partner and put strain on a relationship as a whole. Men can often feel it is demasculinising and frustrating being unable to attain an erection, but struggle to approach the topic with their partners. It can leave their partner feeling rejected and often cause a lot of misunderstanding in a relationship. So, whilst it’s a difficult topic to discuss as a couple, talking about it is a great way to relieve some of the stress and anxiety. It’s also an opportunity to talk openly with your partner about your relationship and consider things you may want to change about your lifestyle, as these are factors that can have a substantial influence on stress and can affect your sex drive. While a partner is undergoing treatment for erectile dysfunction, there are still ways to remain physically intimate with non-sexual touching including cuddling and handholding to show affection and help them feel supported.

Importance of Men’s Health

Whilst the treatments for erectile dysfunction are regularly successful for most men, it’s important to consider factors within your lifestyle that can also help ED symptoms. Consuming a healthier diet, exercising daily, quitting smoking, and trying to reduce stress are amongst some of the things you can do to take care of your body physically and mentally. Acknowledging and acting on certain lifestyle changes can potentially prevent some of the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and it demonstrates the importance of prioritising your physical and mental health. So, don’t ever feel ashamed to talk about your symptoms with both your partner and a GP to gain the support and treatment that you need.