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7 Things to Know About Erectile Dysfunction

Published in Urology, Men's Health, For the Health of It Author: Elizabeth Phillips,MD

If you or your partner is having problems with erections, you’re not alone! Generally thought to be an issue of the aged, erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem that happens to men of all ages. A lot of information can be found on the internet regarding ED, but your health care provider is probably the best source of information and therapy. Here are some important things you should know:

  1. You are not alone! ED is a very common issue affecting around 50% of patients 50 years of age or older, but can occur at any age. It can be as a result of an injury or just due to physical changes in your body. It can be a lifelong issue or something that slowly crept up over several years. Whatever the case, treatment options are available!
  2. It’s probably not all in your head. ED used to be considered a mental problem, but the truth is, the majority of ED is organic, meaning that it has a physical cause. ED can be caused or worsened by medications, surgery, obesity, smoking, hormonal imbalance and other medical problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Often, it is a combination of factors that lead to problems with erections.
  3. Sleep, exercise, stress all play a role. Living a healthy lifestyle can not only increase your energy level, but also your overall sexual well-being. Getting good sleep and regular exercise, as well as managing stress, can actually raise your testosterone, the male sex hormone, and increase your libido, as well as your sexual function. 
  4. It can be a sign of more serious conditions. ED is frequently a warning sign of cardiovascular disease. Patients will often experience symptoms of ED two to five years prior to cardiovascular symptoms or events, such as heart attack. In addition, men under 60 who have ED are two times more likely to have coronary artery disease. Talking to your health care provider about ED can prompt early screening for other diseases.
  5. Never take a friend’s medication. No matter how safe you think a medication is, serious side effects can result from taking a medication that was not prescribed for you. Talk to your health care provider prior to taking a medication, injection or supplement to improve your erections.
  6. Getting older does not mean the end of intimacy. There are many options for treatment of ED and therapy can be tailored to the individual or the couple. Many patients enjoy sex into their 90s and beyond. This is not the end of your sex life!
  7. Talk to someone who can help! Your sexual health matters! It’s OK to talk to your health care provider about ED and other sexual issues. Your health care provider has likely heard similar questions before and can help you find effective therapies.