Certain health conditions seem to be so prevalent, it almost seems they are inevitable as we age. For men, one of these health conditions is erectile dysfunction, defined as the consistent inability to achieve or maintain an erection satisfactory for sexual satisfaction. The advertisements for treatments of this disease are seemingly ubiquitous; leading some men to fear succumbing to erectile dysfunction is an inevitability. But is erectile dysfunction really inevitable?
In short, the answer is no, depending on your threshold for sexual satisfaction. Though erectile function does wane as men age, erectile dysfunction(ED) is absolutely not an inevitable consequence of aging. In fact, only 4% of men in their 50s and 17% of men in their 60s completely lose their ability to have an erection, yet it is estimated nearly 50% of men over 50 years of age will experience some degree of ED, from mild to severe.
Despite a common misconception that ED is a "mental issue," most of the time, ED is a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Certain chronic medical conditions that affect blood flow and the vascular system, such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, can contribute to ED. Certain medications used to treat these illnesses can also contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction. Some common medications that have been known to cause ED are: chemotherapy drugs, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, other high blood pressure medications, anxiety and depression medications, and hormone therapy.
Certain benign and cancerous prostate disorders, and their treatment, may cause ED. Curative surgery or radiation therapy frequently damage the surrounding nerves and penile tissues leading to ED. This post-treatment type of ED may need to be treated with "ViagraTM" like drugs, painless penile injections, vacuum devices, or even surgery. If you have prostate cancer, talk to your doctor about early treatment options. "No man needs to endure prolonged ED after curative therapy," states Andrew McCullough, MD of The Urological Institute of Northeastern New York. "The adage 'use it or lose it' rings true for ED after surgery or radiation for prostate cancer."
Other medical conditions that can cause ED are neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and stroke. "With neurological disorders, the brain's ability to communicate with the penis may be compromised, causing ED," says McCullough. "In addition, a normal hormone status is crucial." Low testosterone frequently affects a man's sex drive, his erectile function, and energy level.
Correction of poor lifestyle habits has been shown to improve erectile function. Smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and obesity can also contribute to erectile dysfunction. Abuse of drugs such as amphetamines, marijuana, opioids, and cocaine have also been linked to erectile dysfunction.
Anxiety and depression can also contribute to erectile dysfunction. Anxiety about external factors such as work or household chores or even a fight with your spouse can affect the ability for a man to achieve an erection. Performance anxiety can also cause ED, especially if a man's previous inability to get an erection is causing him to fear his ability to have one in the future. "Unfortunately, a vicious cycly begins of anxiety and increased ED." According to Dr. McCullough, "Although seeking a mental health professional is crucial for dealing with underlying depression and anxiety, sometimes the only way to break the cycle is to administer drugs such as ViagraTM, CialisTM, LevitraTM, or StendraTM to re-establish self confidence." Depression and fatigue caused by depression can also lead to erectile dysfunction.
The Urological Institute of Northeastern New York specializes in treating men who suffer from all forms of male sexual dysfunction, from premature ejaculation, hormonal deficiencies to erectile dysfunction. "We take great pride in minimizing the impact of prostate cancer treatments on sexual function while we are curing prostate cancer," says Dr. McCullough. Their doctors can help patients to understand the cause of their erectile dysfunction, and to recommend the best course of treatment on an individualized basis.