What’s to know about erectile dysfunction?

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By Jenna Fletcher   


Reviewed by Alana Biggers, MD, MPH


Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Outlook

Most men will experience
problems getting or keeping an erection at some point during adulthood, but
this is not always caused by a medical problem. However, some men do develop a
medical condition called erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a
condition that occurs when the penis does not receive enough blood to produce
an erection that is capable of having sexual intercourse. For men with ED, this
happens repeatedly and affects a man’s ability to sustain an active sex life.
While erectile problems are
widely thought to be an older man’s issue, ED can affect younger men as well.
It can be both frustrating and embarrassing for a man to admit to having ED.
Few young men, especially those under the age of 40, want to acknowledge that
they may have it.
Although ED is not as common
in young men, it can affect about 25 percent of men under the age of 40.
However, only about 5 percent of all men under 40 have complete ED.
Causes

The causes of ED widely vary
and can be caused by psychological, neurological, or lifestyle issues. ER can
also be the result of side effects of particular medications.
Erectile dysfunction may be
caused by obesity, a poor diet, a lack of exercise, or smoking.


All men who experience
symptoms of ED should talk to their doctor to identify the probable cause and
to determine the best course of action in terms of treatment.
Some of the causes for ED in
young men include:

  • performance anxiety when the
    man is too nervous to sustain an erection
  • depression, schizophrenia, and
    other psychological disorders
  • penile abnormalities, such as
    foreskin problems or curvature
  • spinal cord injuries
  • microvascular disease from
    diabetes
  • nerve injuries
  • hypogonadism, a condition
    where the body does not produce enough sexual hormones
  • certain medications including
    some antidepressants
  • multiple sclerosis
Additionally, some young men
might experience ED as result of factors that they have more control over.
For example, young men can
suffer from ED due to:

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • poor diet
  • lack of exercise
  • smoking
  • excessive drinking
  • relationship stress
If ED is caused by any of
these lifestyle factors, it may be possible for men to reduce or eliminate the
symptoms through changes to their lifestyle and diet.
However, even if a man thinks
he knows the reason for his ED, he should see a doctor for a formal diagnosis
and treatment. A doctor can also rule out any potentially harmful conditions
that may cause ED.


Symptoms

There are three main symptoms
of ED, which are relatively easy to identify. These symptoms are:

  • inability to get an erection
  • inability to maintain an
    erection long enough to have sexual intercourse
  • trouble having an erection
    that is firm enough for sexual intercourse
These symptoms may lead to a
lack of sexual desire or a loss of interest in sex.
Complications

Physical complications of ED
are generally mild. Men who experience ED do not typically experience any
long-term health problems. However, ED may be a symptom of a more serious
problem, such as heart disease.
The most common complications
include:

  • an unsatisfactory sex life
  • inability to get a partner
    pregnant
While the physical
complications may be mild, the emotional effects on a young man’s quality of
life may be more severe. Whether a man experiences all the potential
complications or not depends largely on the individual and his own life
experiences.
Additional lifestyle
complications that some men might experience include:

  • stress or anxiety around
    sexual performance
  • embarrassment or low
    self-esteem due to inability to perform
  • relationship problems that possibly
    stem from stress or embarrassment
Treatment

Treatment for ED varies from
person to person. Some men may find that improving their overall health may be
enough to help the ED. Other people may require more treatment, such as
relationship counseling, before they see any improvements.
If lifestyle and relationship
improvements are not sufficient to improve ED, doctors may recommend
medications. There are also some natural treatments available that may be
considered.
When treating ED, a doctor or
medical professional may suggest the following:

  • Lifestyle changes: One of the
    first things a young man can do to potentially improve or eliminate ED is make
    positive choices that will also have an impact on the rest of his life. Some
    changes a man can consider include increasing exercise, eating a heart-healthy
    diet, quitting smoking, and drinking alcohol only in moderation. Where a man
    has relationship problems, seeking counseling may also be helpful.
  • Natural treatments: Although
    natural remedies are increasingly available for sale over the counter, there is
    little scientific evidence to support their claims of improving ED. These
    remedies may produce adverse side effects or react negatively with other
    medications a man is taking. Before trying any over-the-counter treatments, it
    is essential to consult a doctor.
  • Medication: A doctor may
    prescribe a medication that stimulates blood flow to the penis, helping a man
    achieve an erection. There are many drugs available to choose from and each has
    its own set of side effects. Speaking to a doctor about the types of medication
    available is strongly recommended.
  • Changes to current
    medications: If a doctor determines that ED is caused as a result of a man
    taking a certain medication, they may change or stop the problematic
    medication. No one should stop or alter their medication without talking to a
    doctor first, however.
Outlook

Young men typically have a
good chance of reversing ED. This can be achieved through lifestyle changes
that generally improve overall health and by taking medication, or both. It is
not uncommon for young men with ED to go back to experiencing a normal sex life
if they follow the treatment and advice provided by their doctors.





SOURCE: MEDICAL NEWS TODAY
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.