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Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, or Impotence is difficulty getting or maintaining an erection during sexual activity. During a normal erection, arteries dilate and blood fills the spongy tissues of the penis and veins are constricted, leading to retention of this blood within the penis. Erectile dysfunction in men can have a number of different physical, environmental and psychological causes.

Physical causes of erectile dysfunction include nervous system problems like brain injury, spinal cord injury, and various disorders such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Hormonal imbalances, such as thyroid problems and a deficiency in testosterone, can also cause erectile dysfunction. A disorder called Peyronie's disease, where scar tissue forms within the penis, can also lead to erectile dysfunction and possibly pain and changes in the size and curvature of the penis. Certain surgeries, especially surgeries for prostate cancer and bladder cancer, have a chance of damaging nerves in the pelvis and can result in erectile dysfunction. Radiation therapy for cancer can also cause erectile dysfunction in men. People with diabetes are more likely to have erectile dysfunction as well, because diabetes affects the circulatory system, including the blood vessels in the penis.

Environmental causes of erectile dysfunction include arsenic poisoning, smoking, and drug side effects. Men older than the age of 50 are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction. When diagnosing erectile dysfunction, a simple test can be done to see whether the man is physically able to get an erection; if he gets normal erections in his sleep, it is not likely that any structures are damaged.

Some cases of erectile dysfunction are mostly psychological in origin. Performance anxiety, mental disorders and stress can all factor in to an expression of erectile dysfunction. In some cases, there may be a temporary medical reason for erectile dysfunction, but performance anxiety can begin to affect the ability to maintain an erection in sexual situations even when all structures and functions are medically normal.

How erectile dysfunction is treated depends on what the cause is; unfortunately, some medical problems cause permanent damage. One of the most popular types of treatment for erectile dysfunction is taking a drug that inhibits an enzyme called phosphodiesterase type 5. These types of drugs cause increased blood flow to the spongy tissues of the penis. Drugs in this class include Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. Another type of drug, a prostaglandin called alprostadil, is used to dilate arteries in the penis and treat erectile dysfunction. Alprostadil is a topical cream, as opposed to a pill like Viagra.

Some health professionals suggest exercise to help manage erectile dysfunction. People who did aerobic exercise showed a lower rate of erectile dysfunction than groups of people who did not. Another lifestyle approach that may be helpful in improving erectile dysfunction with psychological influence is increased communication between sexual partners. If both partners are more educated and understanding of the situation, it is less likely that performance anxiety will be as much of an issue.

Certain types of vacuum penis pumps are FDA-approved for treating erectile dysfunction. These devices are meant to be used right before sexual intercourse, to help bring blood flow into the penis and help establish an erection. Sometimes, these devices are sold as ways to increase penis size; however, this effect is only temporary and it is just caused by increased blood flow into the penis.

As a last resort treatment, a surgical approach can be taken. This surgery is also helpful for those men who have suffered permanent nerve damage that does not allow them to get an erection naturally. In this penile prosthesis surgery, implants are placed into the penis. There are two general types of penis protheses: a hydraulic type that is inflated when an erection is needed, and bendable rods. The hydraulic type of prosthesis is more natural-seeming in that it is only inflated when it is needed, and the rod implants are always somewhat rigid. As with any major surgery, there are risks and potential complications with the penile prosthesis surgery.

Many herbal supplements for erectile dysfunction are advertised, especially on the internet. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any of these treatments for erectile dysfunction, and warns that although they may be labeled as natural and safe, they may contain adulterant chemicals that may be unsafe. These supplements do not have to prove their efficacy or safety, or even be honest about whether the product label matches the actual ingredients and dosages of the supplement. For these reasons, it is best to talk to your doctor about erectile dysfunction treatment.