These past few years, you can scarcely flip a channel, click a mouse or turn a magazine page without seeing something about “erectile dysfunction.” Beginning with the advent of Viagra and the now-almost-quaint ads featuring Bob Dole, the media has gone from a whisper to a shout in discussions of male sexual performance. As many as 50 million men in the US and Europe suffer from erectile dysfunction. Clearly, it’s an issue on the minds of many.
What’s unclear is whether erectile dysfunction is afflicting more men today, as the numbers would indicate, or whether it’s simply a case of better reporting and more openness to discussion. While today’s more-toxicified environment, with factors like pollution, chemicals and hormones in food and water, and more exposure to radiation, has been blamed for an increased incidence of erectile dysfunction, it’s more likely that men are simply more comfortable seeking help and treatment today, even for mild or occasional problems with sexual performance.
Replacing the disturbingly terminal-sounding word “impotence,” today’s term erectile dysfunction most accurately means a man can’t get an erection to have sex, or can’t keep an erection long enough to finish having sex. However, the term is also applied to a range of difficulties, including dissatisfaction with the hardness and angle of the erection, partial erection, brief erection and loss of libido.
Contrary to popular belief, most cases of ED are not psychologically based, that is, only about 10% of ED is caused by anxiety (though anxiety or emotional problems can certainly make the problem worse). You may experience ED if:
• You’re nervous about sex because of a bad experience or a previous episode of impotence
• You’re very stressed because of work or family situations
• Your relationship with your sex partner is troubled, or you feel your partner is negative toward you
• You suffer from depression or extreme self-consciousness
Most often, ED is caused by disease, injury or drug side effects. Risk factors for ED include:
– Prostate cancer treatments (surgery and radiation)
– Heart disease
– Hardening of the arteries
– High blood pressure
– Side affects of other drug therapy
– Liver or kidney failure
– Neurological disorders, such as spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis
– Hormone imbalance
– Hypogonadism, which leads to low testosterone levels
– Parkinson’s disease
Many men also hold the belief that erectile dysfunction is an automatic part of getting older — but this isn’t necessarily so. Many men require changes in the methods of becoming aroused as they age, such as longer periods of touching and stroking or addition of lubricants.
Erectile dysfunction is not only big news, it’s also big business. Doctors are seeing record numbers of patients, and pharmaceutical companies continue to devote extensive resources to drug research and development; some estimates say the worldwide market for oral drugs for treatment of erectile dysfunction is approximately $2.5 billion to $3 billion, and about $1 billion to $1.5 billion in the U.S. alone.
There are now treatments for every degree of erectile dysfunction. Men seek help for everything from ordinary, occasional sub-stud performance to chronic, complete impotence. Current approaches include:
• Prescription drugs. The ubiquitous and popular drugs for erectile dysfunction work to increase blood flow to the penis. ViagraÂ®, LevitraÂ® and CialisÂ® have similar compositions of phosphodiesterase inhibitors (PDE5), and are the most widely known pharmaceutical drugs for impotence on the market today.
• Natural supplements. A discreet and cost-effective option for many men who have erectile concerns that are not caused by E.D., natural supplements are also a good choice especially for men who have contraindications to prescription drugs (such as a family history of heart disease). Effective natural supplements for erectile enhancement are in pill form or in a transdermal patch form.
• Transdermal technologies. The direct-application options of transdermal topical oils for erectile concerns not caused by E.D. are now being used as a much less invasive alternative to injections and suppositories. It’s a method of transferring beneficial ingredients directly to the genitals without a needle or suppository; instead, it’s simply applied like a lubricant.
• Surgical penile implants. A urologist or other specialist inserts a medical device into the shaft of the penis surgically. Devices vary, but most work by means of pumping fluid to the penis when an erection is desired, or by activating a rigid tube of some sort.
• Vacuum pump erection devices. The vacuum tube placed over the penis is pumped to tighten and apply suction. When the penis becomes erect, an elastic band is placed around the base of the penis to maintain blood in the penis and keep it firm.
• Injections. Medication to dilate, or widen, the blood vessels is injected directly into the penis to create an erection.
• Urethra suppositories. Medication in suppository form is inserted into the urethra, so the penis can directly absorbs the medication for increased blood flow.
If one does not suffer from E.D. and therefore does not require pharmaceuticals, natural supplements can address many erection concerns, and do not have complications and side effects like pharmaceuticals. Many men find these natural approaches to be fully adequate in addressing their concerns, while others may think of them as a good first line of defense before going on to aggressive treatment if necessary. Many men also use these natural approaches as a sort of “preventative maintenance” to support their reproductive health. If you have questions about your specific situation, contact a urologist who specializes in impotence treatments.