Erectile Dysfunction: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

2019-08-30

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Sometimes referred to as male impotence, erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection.  According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease as many as 30 million men in the United States have ED.  

  • Men 70 years of age and older – 30%
  • Men in their 60s – 22%
  • Men under 60 – 12%

In 41% of men under 40 years of age, the most common factor related to their erectile dysfunction was smoking, while diabetes was the second most common risk factor with 27% of the men under 40 years of age.

 Erectile Dysfunction Symptoms may include:

  • Reduced interest in sexual activities
  • Trouble achieving a full erection
  • Trouble maintaining an erection during sex

While this is never an easy conversation for most men to have with their doctors, you should know that occasional erectile dysfunction is definitely not uncommon.  Stress, problems within your relationship, depression, and other health-related issues may make achieving an erection difficult.   However, should you have ongoing trouble achieving and maintaining an erection, it’s time to speak to your doctor.

What Causes of Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by one or several different physical and mental disorders such as:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes 
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Stress and/or Anxiety
  • Advanced age
  • Smoking
  • Drug and/or alcohol use

Diagnosis of Erectile Dysfunction

Many men find discussing ED with their doctors to be uncomfortable, but it is there is nothing to be ashamed of.   Your doctor will work with you to find out what the underlying cause of your ED.  This usually involves a physical including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood and urine tests, prostate exam and an examination of both your penis and your testicles.

Nocturnal Penile Tumescence  (NPT) Test

Most healthy males will have erections while they sleep. This test is to review your nocturnal erections, which occur while you’re asleep.  A portable device is attached to your thigh while you are sleeping, recording the quality of your nocturnal erections for review by your doctor.

Treatments and medications for Erectile Dysfunction

Your doctor will prescribe treatment depending on the cause of your ED.  This may include not only prescription medication for erectile dysfunction, but also lifestyle changes. The goal of the medication is to help stimulate blood flow to your penis.  It is not unusual for patients to try several medications before finding the one that works best and which may have the fewest side effects.

Some medications that are often prescribed for the treatment of erectile dysfunction are:


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