Erectile dysfunction (known as ED) is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient enough to have sex. If you suffer from the symptoms of ED occasionally or frequently stay tuned because you are not alone. The fact is that ED is very, very common. It is estimated that half of men between 40-70 years of age in the UK have erection difficulties to some degree.
Unfortunately, like most aspects of men’s health, ED is shrouded by social stigma and misinformation, leaving men feeling less masculine, less of a ‘man’ for their partners and for some people it can cause severe emotional distress.
Sadly, many men never seek help for ED or discuss it with anyone, which can make the problem extremely isolating. Just thinking about the situation can occupy the mind night and day, which only compounds the issue, often making things worse. The good news is that you are so much more than a penis, and there are many causes of ED that can be addressed before you reach for the little blue pills.
Most people assume that ED is caused solely by having low testosterone levels and that in itself can cause men to feel less masculine. But, while hormonal levels are an indicator of some erection complications it is not the leading cause.
It is very important to get to the bottom of erectile dysfunction as it may be an indication that there are other undiagnosed conditions, physical or psychological. Dr Jeff Foster is a leading men’s health specialist with extensive experience in treating ED. When he consults with a patient displaying ED symptoms, the first thing he will address is what exactly ED means to that particular individual, because everyone will experience it differently. For instance, if a person has no desire to have sex at all then the problem may be hormonal and a simple blood test can confirm this prognosis. If they do want to have sex but the erectile function is not as good as it used to be, it may be due to an underlying condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or prostate issues. However, when a patient wants to have sex but finds it difficult to maintain an erection, then often psychological issues such as guilt or shame may compound the problem. Furthermore, when a patient reports that they only want to have sex occasionally and maybe not with their partner it could well be a psychological issue, especially if they can achieve an erection when alone.
The patient’s age can also be a good general indicator for the causes of ED, for instance in 20- to 40-year-olds the reasons are usually psychological. In the 40-50 age range, the diagnosis is usually a combination of physical and psychological issues. In the 50 + age range it is usually a physical deficit, most commonly related to cardiovascular issues. After a thorough discussion to establish a clearer understanding of the patient’s circumstances, Dr Jeff will screen for the various physical indicators such as obesity, lowered testosterone, and cardiovascular problems. He performs a physical examination and combines the psychological, physical, and blood results to build a comprehensive picture of each patient and the causes of their ED.
Irregularities in penis function can be an early warning symptom of heart problems.
Inadequate blood supply to the heart due to dysfunction within the lining of the blood vessels causes impaired blood flow to the penis and aids the onset of atherosclerosis as the arteries in the penis are very similar to arteries that supply the heart. Therefore if you experience ED due to a narrowing of the arteries, (also known as atherosclerosis), then it is highly likely you will have narrowing of the arteries in the heart. This is how people develop angina and heart attacks. It is suggested that if men have ED due to atherosclerosis, there is around a 3-year window before significant cardiac damage will occur, i.e. heart attack.
The excellent news is that while these heart-related issues may sound scary, they can be successfully managed with medication and good lifestyle choices. Dr Jeff Foster is very conscious of the importance of healthy heart function and good overall health including addressing psychological issues that may be the root of the ED problem.
Other causes of Erectile Dysfunction include:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Neurological diseases
- Substance abuse
- Sleep disorders
- Prostate issues
- Certain types of Surgery
- Peyronie’s disease – scar tissue in the penis
- Low testosterone
Thankfully, the majority of the causes listed above can be diagnosed and treated successfully. As stated previously ED can also have psychological roots, and this is a topic that some men find even harder to discuss. Stress caused by work, money worries, relationship issues, anxiety, or depression are all common causes of ED.
Dr Jeff Foster encourages men to step forward and to stop suffering alone and in silence. He wants men to take control of their health without identifying with the stigma that this issue attracts. An erection and how long you can maintain it is not an indicator of how manly and able you are, but taking steps to promote your health and wellbeing, and discussing your symptoms with someone can be.
For more information about the causes of erectile dysfunction and treatments, or to book a Male MOT, contact Dr Jeff Foster for a professional, comprehensive, and fully supported journey to health.