What happens when you have erectile dysfunction?
You can think of the penis as being similar to a garden hose. When the flow of water is opened, the water fills the hose and straightens it. In the penis there are two cylindrical, sponge-like structures that are called the corpora cavernosa. These run the length of the penis and are filled with blood vessels. When a man becomes sexually aroused, nerve impulses increase blood flow into both cylinders. This increased blood flow causes the spongy material in the corpora cavernosa to expand, and this straightens and stiffens the penis.
The failure to be able to get and maintain an erection is known as erectile dysfunction. This can be due to myriad of causes, some physical, some emotional and psychological. Erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a symptom of other diseases or health problems, such as heart disease. At Infinity Health & Wellness in Gilbert, AZ, we offer treatments that can help.
What causes erectile dysfunction?
Because there isn’t a single cause/effect for a man getting and keeping an erection, finding direct causation is tricky. The process of getting an erection involves physical structures like blood vessels, muscles, and nerves. But it also involves complicated psychological function involving the brain and the hormones.
Having more difficulty achieving and maintaining erections is a part of natural aging. This is because our blood vessels constrict somewhat as we age, and the flow through the blood vessels isn’t as strong as it is in our youth. Both of these factors play a direct role in getting an erection. Some degree of erectile dysfunction or simply of declining erection quality is completely normal after a man passes his 55th birthday.
Sometimes ED can be simply a case of ongoing stress, which tends to constrict the body’s blood vessels or mental health issues such as depression. Plus, once a man has had a single case of losing an erection, it can then “get in the head” creating more stress on future possible sexual encounters.
Sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues is behind the problem. What begins as a simple physical condition, maybe high blood pressure, can lead to a case of ED, which then adds a psychological aspect to future sexual encounters.
Purely physical reasons can be behind ED. These are some common causes:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Side effect of certain medications
- Substance abuse
- Sleep disorders
- Peyronie’s disease
- Treatments for prostate cancer or enlargement
- Natural result of aging
These psychological issues can cause or worsen ED:
- Anxiety disorders
- Relationship problems
Can erectile dysfunction be prevented?
Healthy lifestyle choices, such as maintaining a healthy weight and exercising, and managing certain existing conditions can help to prevent erectile dysfunction:
- Managing your diabetes
- Managing heart disease
- Managing other chronic conditions
- Regular exercise
- Actively reducing stress
- Stopping smoking
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Treating depression and other mental health issues
Do I have to see a doctor to be treated?
Some erectile dysfunction is fleeting, due to stresses at work or in a relationship, for instance. If you’re 55 or older, some degree of dysfunction is expected. It aligns with a woman’s declining sexual interest as she exits menopause. Still, sudden or chronic ED can be a symptom of other issues. Plus, many men don’t like the stigma that they can attach to erectile dysfunction. Also, taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, can have ED as a side effect. At that point, it’s a good time to call us at Infinity Health & Wellness.
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Is erectile dysfunction treatable?
Erectile dysfunction is easily treatable with oral medication. These medications all work to enhance the effects of nitric oxide, a natural chemical in your body that relaxes the muscles in the penis. When these muscles relax, blood flow increases, and you are able to get and maintain an erection.
While these medications are very effective for most men, they aren’t an instant erection producer. Sexual stimulation is needed for the body to release nitric oxide from the nerves in the penis.
These are the four oral medications approved for treatment of ED:
- Sildenafil (Viagra)
- Tadalafil (Adcirca, Cialis)
- Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
- Avanafil (Stendra)
These medications can have these possible side effects: flushing, nasal congestion, headaches, visual changes, backaches, and upset stomach. They can’t be used if the patient is already taking nitrate drugs, has heart disease, or hypotension (very low blood pressure).
Does treatment for erectile dysfunction always work?
In addition to the prescription of the above-mentioned drugs, there are other treatments. These include direct injections of alprostadil into the base of the penis. Testosterone replacement therapy can also be effective. Vacuum penis pumps pull blood into the penis, creating an erection.
Also, natural treatments, such as adding vigorous aerobic exercise to your lifestyle can eliminate or reduce ED. The same is true of limiting or addressing stresses in your life, or of losing weight if you’re obese or getting high blood pressure under control.
As with most treatments, there are no guarantees. But our treatments for erectile dysfunction at Infinity Health & Wellness have very high success rates.