Impotence / Erectile Dysfunction

Impotence / Erectile Dysfunction

Illustration of  the anatomy of the male reproductive tract
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What is erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, is the inability to achieve an erection, and/or dissatisfaction with the size, rigidity, and/or duration of erections. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), erectile dysfunction affects up to 30 million men.

Although in the past it was commonly believed to be due to psychological problems, it is now known that for most men erectile dysfunction is caused by physical problems, usually related to the blood supply of the penis. Many advances have occurred in both diagnosis and treatment of erectile dysfunction.

What are the risk factors for erectile dysfunction?

According to the NIH, erectile dysfunction is also a symptom that accompanies many disorders and diseases.

Direct risk factors for erectile dysfunction may include the following:

Age appears to be a strong indirect risk factor in that it is associated with increased likelihood of direct risk factors, some of which are listed above.

It is estimated that about 4 percent of men in their fifties, and nearly 17 percent of men in their sixties, have difficulty achieving an erection. Accurate risk factor identification and characterization are essential for prevention or treatment of erectile dysfunction.

What are the different types (and causes) of ED?

The following are some of the different types and possible causes of impotence:

How is ED diagnosed?

Diagnostic procedures for ED may include the following:

What is the treatment for ED?

Specific treatment for erectile dysfunction will be determined by your physician based on:

Some of the treatments available for ED include the following:

Infection is the most common cause of penile implant failure and is treatable with antibiotics. In some cases, the infected implant must be replaced by a new implant. Implants are usually not considered until other methods of treatment have been tried.

How do couples cope with ED?

Erectile dysfunction can cause strain on a couple. Many times, men will avoid sexual situations due to their emotional pain associated with ED, causing their partner to feel rejected or inadequate. It is important to communicate openly with your partner. Some couples consider seeking treatment for ED together, while other men prefer to seek treatment without their partner's knowledge. A lack of communication is the primary barrier for seeking treatment and can prolong the suffering. The loss of erectile capacity can have a profound effect on a man. The good news is that ED can usually be treated safely and effectively.

Feeling embarrassed about being impotent may prevent many men from seeking the medical attention they need, which can delay diagnosis and treatment for more serious underlying conditions. Impotence itself is often related to an underlying problem, such as heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, or other medical conditions.

Since impotence can be a forewarning symptom of progressive coronary disease, physicians should be more direct when questioning patients about their health. By asking patients more directly about their sexual function through conversation or a questionnaire during a checkup, physicians may be able to detect more serious health conditions sooner.

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