Erection is the physiological process by which a penis becomes erect by being engorged with blood. Blood flow to the penis is usually stimulated by sexual thoughts or direct contact with the penis. Erectile dysfunction is the inability to keep an erected penis firm enough to have sexual intercourse. It can be caused by health problems and emotional issues. It is sometimes referred to as impotence which can be frequent or occasional and also occurs at any stage of the erection process. Occasional erectile dysfunction is uncommon, it occurs during the time of stress or as the result of a recent nutritional or lifestyle change. However, frequent erectile dysfunction indicates health problems that need treatment, which can be a symptom of emotional or relationship difficulties.
Causes of erectile dysfunction
There are factors contributing to the causes of erectile dysfunction which are: physical factors, mental factors, and medications.
- Heart disease
- Damage from cancer or surgery
- Low testosterone level
- High cholesterol
- Enlarged prostate.
- Excessive intake of alcohol
- Sleeping disorders
- Emotional disturbance.
- Relationship problem
- Hormone therapy.
Symptoms of erectile dysfunction
- Trouble getting an erection.
- Difficulty maintaining an erection during sexual activities
- Reduced interest in sex
- Delayed ejaculation
- Premature ejaculation
- Inability to achieve orgasm after stimulation.
Diagnosis of erectile dysfunction
Investigating erectile dysfunction includes the following:
- Listen to heart and lungs
- Check blood pressure
- Examine testicles and penis
- Look for signs of reduced blood in the pelvic region
- Examine nerve function in the pelvic region
- Rectal exam to check the prostate.
This is used to determine the severity of the problem by asking questions pertaining to the symptoms
- How long have you been experiencing erectile dysfunction?
- Did it come on suddenly or gradually?
- Are you having any problems with feeling sexual desire, ejaculating, or reaching orgasm?
- How often do you have sex?
- Has this frequency changed recently?
- How firm are your erections? Is this affected by stimulation?
- How can you describe your erection in the morning when you are awake?
- How’s your current relationship?
- What expectations do you and your partner have for each other? Have there been any changes?
- Have you recently been experiencing a lot of stress?
- What medications are you currently taking? Are you exposed to tobacco, alcohol, or nonprescription drugs?
- Do you have any past medical history relating to your pelvic area.
- Ultrasound test: This test can be used to examine the blood vessels of the penis to determine if there is a problem with blood flow to the penis.
- Nocturnal penile tumescence test: A portable, battery-powered device is used to evaluate the quality of nocturnal erections. The device is worn on the thigh. It stores data that can be accessed later.
- Injection test: During this test, a medication is injected into the penis to stimulate an erection. This allows for evaluation of the firmness of the erection and how long it lasts. This test can be used combined with ultrasound for further assessment of the erection.
- Urine tests: it is used to check for diabetes or other underlying health conditions which can be an underlying cause of erectile dysfunction.
- Blood tests: it is recommended to investigate medication conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, thyroid issues, and low levels of testosterone affecting the erection process.
Treatment of erectile dysfunction
The treatment is usually based on underlying causes. The various ways to treat erectile dysfunction are:
- Medication: medication was prescribed to maintain the flow of blood to the penis
- Talk therapy: If erectile dysfunction is caused by a mental factor, see a therapist to talk about feelings around sex or thoughts that could be affecting sexual well-being.
- Prostatic massage: Massage the tissues in and around the groin to promote blood flow to the penis.
- Vacuum pump: This treatment uses the creation of a vacuum to stimulate an erection. Using the vacuum pump draws blood into the penis, leading to an erection.
Surgical treatment of erectile dysfunction
The surgical treatment of erectile dysfunction includes:
- Implant: A penile implant also referred to as a prosthesis is planted in the penis. Penile implants are typically reserved for severe erectile dysfunction that has been unresponsive to other treatments.
- Vascular surgery: Vascular surgery is done to repair arteries that may be blocked. This type of surgery is uncommon, and usually only reserved for people with pelvic trauma that leads to vascular injury. It restores adequate blood flow to the penis.
Prevention of erectile dysfunction
- Medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes should be managed.
- Regular exercise.
- Maintain a moderate weight.
- Healthy diet.
- Reduce or manage stress.
- Regular sleep.
- Quit smoking
- Moderate alcohol consumption
Complications of erectile dysfunction
- Unfulfilled sex life
- Loss of intimacy with a partner
- A strained relationship with a partner
- Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem
- Inability to get a female partner pregnant