Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual performance. 1.
Effectively it is term used by doctors to describe a male’s inability to achieve or maintain an erection of the penis. An erection is usually the result of sexual arousal when signals pass between the brain and nerves in the penis that causes blood to flow quickly to the penis, where it is retained.
This produces a swelling and stiffening of the penis. When this blood flow and retention does not occur the penis will remain flaccid. The condition may be temporary or long-term and makes sexual intercourse impossible.
When speaking of impotence Doctors distinguish between the inability to produce an erection and the inability to father a child through a normal erection. Erectile dysfunction is only diagnosed as Impotence if, during 70% of testing done, an erection is still not produced and the problem persists for six months or more.
There are many potential reasons the failure of an erection. Some are physical and some psychological.
Psychological Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
It was previously believed that the primary cause of erectile dysfunction was related to psychological issues, but doctors have since discovered that only an approximate 20% of cases had psychological causes and that there were numerous different reasons for this.
Of these, the foremost cause of erectile dysfunction is thought to be performance anxiety. This can occur when the male feels under pressure due to the perceived, unrealistic expectations of a sexual partner of what the sexual act should be like, and what it should accomplish.
When sexually aroused the brain usually sends signals for the body to produce nitric oxide (NO) which then stimulates the production of cyclic guanosine monophosphate, (cGMP) essential to the erection process, as this is what causes greater blood flow to the penis.
When the male suffers from anxiety he is less likely to be sexually aroused, with the result that the brain sends no stimulation signals at all and the penis remains flaccid. Fatigue, work related or personal problems are also culprits.
Physical Causes of Erectile Dysfunction:
Physical reasons for the failure of an erection are many and varied. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are at the top the list of organic causes for the problem, with obesity, hormonal deficiencies (caused by stress or lack of sleep)and drug abuse also accounting for a fair share of the problem. Thorough physical exams will pinpoint the cause and treatment will be prescribed accordingly.
Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction
Medicine has developed various therapies to assist in rectifying the causes of erectile dysfunction that have no organic basis. Therapies include the oral supplementation of nitric oxide and cyclic guanosine monophosphate. PDE5 inhibitor drugs such as Viagra are now widely and successfully used to correct chemical causes of the condition.
Vascular reconstructive surgery is carried out where such a problem has been identified, and some men opt to use a penis pump or a penile prosthesis.
Like the condition itself, treatment is a sensitive issue with most males, but its availability will have been greatly welcomed by all who have felt isolated by erectile dysfunction.